The name Flying Lotus is enough of a guarantee that you’re about to bear witness to an awesome party. Tonight though, it was Steven Ellison — the man behind Flying Lotus and Captain Murphy — who took the stage, thinking, “I don’t know if this mic will make it through the night.”
An uncompromising force still in his creative prime, Ellison transformed the Forum into his own elegant art project, breaking the boundaries between art and dance. The end product was one that was skewered down the middle like an identity crisis in the best possible way.
For the ravers, flailers, and tweakers who were looking to dance like everyone is looking, it meant Ellison’s experimental cuts were present, but seemed few and far between amid the glitching nu-jazz tracks that pushed the envelope of textured samples, and which may be better suited soundtracking an art gallery than the dance floor. One example of the latter was the lesser known Queen cut The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke, carved out and filled with enough bass to make the Forum shake.
Nonetheless, even during the more “arty” and less danceable tracks, the audience remained compelled by FlyLo’s stunning Layer 3 show. Aided by visual artists Strangeloop and Timeboy, FlyLo was positioned between two transparent scrims, flanked by intense strobe lights, with separate visuals projected onto each scrim, creating a 3D effect on the dance floor. It perfectly complemented the kind of astral projection FlyLo aims for, especially when Ellison’s silhouette triumphantly raised its arms over its head and told Melbourne to “Bounce, bounce.”
Watch: Flying Lotus’ NEW Stage Set Up – 3D Live Show
In between spinning some of the tracks from his well-received breakthrough, Cosmogramma, and latest effort Until The Quiet Comes, he stated that he “plays shit I actually feel, that means something to me.” On previous Australian trips, it was soul and funk, but tonight it was hip-hop, which manifested itself as his Sealab 2021-inspired alter ego, Captain Murphy.
Cue ScHoolBoy Q, Pusha T, and Drake, eviscerated and packed with trilled synths and pulsing, fluctuating beats. Then, Captain Murphy himself emerged from behind the scrim, mic in hand and drink in tow.
Ellison spat like a newly minted member of OFWGKTA: baritone-voiced, aggressive, and in the zone. His rhymes came out hard and fast, with a flow educated by his FlyLo producer credits. It proved a good shake-up to some of the more straightforward producing work he played earlier, and was well-received by the crowd.
Ellison soundtracked the show with his finger on the pulse, even chucking new, unreleased tracks into the mix. Though they perhaps contributed to making the show a little long-winded, he played them in good humour, knowing full well that Melbourne was on its game and that there would be a high level of appreciation.
Melbourne was on its game but so was Ellison — or is it Flying Lotus? or Captain Murphy? Whoever it was, it was refreshing to witness a genius know his audience so well and not have to dumb anything down.