Pulse's Tristan Alaba headed to the Sydney Opera House on a balmy Sunday evening to witness the Brainfeeder boss' spectacular 3D live show.
Flying Lotus can do whatever he wants, yet he started his Sydney Opera House Layer 3 show by asking the crowd what they wanted - “The sitting down shit, or the standing up shit?” - such is FlyLo’s desire to please. Jazz heads hoping for a cerebral Sunday sit-down were quickly eclipsed by a highly contagious standing ovation, largely inspired by the stage presence of the Californian producer, and now MC. After getting a look at the audience, Ellison returned from the front of stage to his private position within the three layered projection set-up. Summoning the bounce of his Brainfeeder beats and the hard bop of his Coltrane family heritage, FlyLo shredded through cuts from 'Cosmogramma' and 'Until The Quiet Comes' while visual artists Timeboy and Strangeloop sent an array of cosmic debris cascading towards the audience, mimicking the momentum and movements of the meticulous and thunderous Thundercat bass lines. A century of static spilled through the three screens, as an accumulation of avant garde electronic jazz spilled out of the speakers like it were the result of an algorithm.
Many minutes of speechless awe was interrupted by a roar erupting from the crowd - the beat turned on a dime to a heavier half-time, visuals went from a pushing effect to pulling us strongly towards the silhouette of Steven Ellison and his third eye. Video game vector graphics and laser laden boom bap kept the crowd bumping until a moment of meditation emerged as 'Zodiac Shit,' a highlight from 2010’s 'Cosmogramma'. The opening refrain shone calm and clear with a sun and sea beaming over the still standing crowd, but as the beat dropped, an animated Confucius arrived to take us on a trippy tour of zodiac imagery. Flying Lotus’ music is fulfilling without optical aids, but psychedelic and spiritual symbolism seems particularly potent in combination with his approach to performance and composition.
Layer 3 could have been dominated by the projections, but the appearance of Captain Murphy, Ellison’s hard rapping, maniacal laughing, evil twin alter ego, made sure this wouldn’t happen. Still relatively fresh on the scene, Murphy made a mid-set maraud in the middle of the stage atop dark, Odd Future-esque/FlyLo beats. His powerful presence promises to be an asset but unfortunately his articulation and flow are only around average, making it difficult to pick up on his rhymes. Afterwards, some said he could have rapped less, however the overall response was positive towards this new element of his personality and performance.
The Captain returned to being FlyLo, blasting a bass heavy set of cyber-trap, transitioning into frenetic FlyLo-meets-footwork beats, which he enthusiastically notified us to be “new shit, new shit, new shit”. DJ Rashad’s epic 'Pass That Shit' and trap anthem 'Higher Ground' by TNGHT got a club vibe going and tracks such as 'Getting There', 'Putty Boy Strut', 'Do the Astral Plane' and 'Oh Sheit, It’s X' got air time, as did MF DOOM, Earl Sweatshirt and Kendrick.
For the finale Ellison stated that he’d like to finish with what was probably his most complex composition and that it might be a good idea to sit down and enjoy “some real cerebral shit”. Everyone sat down and rather than a tune, we heard a piece. Free-jazz flowed in unfollowable waves, leaving nothing to hold on to and creating a cleansing complexity that let the mind unwind, while Flying Lotus’ silhouette stood solemn, knowing that tonight he had been a generous Brainfeeder.