It’s ultimately unclear whether the title for Flying Lotus’s latest foray into experimental madness should be interpreted as a goofy threat or a moment of sublime existential awareness. What’s indisputable, however, is the efficiency at which the chaotic expanse of You’re Dead! burrows its way into the psyche. While 2012’s Until the Quiet Comes often felt muddled and unfocused, Flying Lotus, a.k.a. Steven Ellison, alternates here between jazz, prog, funk, and hip-hop with precision, balancing moments of elegance (the post-jazzy “Never Let Me Go”), silliness (the playfully macabre “Dead Man’s Tetris” and “The Boys Who Died in Their Sleep”), and mind-bending surrealism (the appropriately titled “Descent Into Madness”). You’re Dead! features an array of collaborators—Kendrick Lamar, Herbie Hancock, Snoop Dogg, Niki Randa, and Angel Deradoorian—arguably as diverse as the genres it riffs on. The album utilizes harsh and sudden collisions of distorted guitar and snare briefly separated by intermittent angelic choirs to heady and hallucinatory effect, though Ellison successfully avoids the more obvious and majestic overtones usually associated with the afterlife. On a palette as cluttered with ideas and guest stars as this, maintaining thematic focus could have, in lesser hands, been tricky. But while it may not be clear where we’re headed throughout the album, Ellison maneuvers through the bedlam with such confidence that it’s not just easy to get swept up in his grand vision of the Great Beyond, but to return for repeat visits.
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