Flying Lotus — Yasuke — Album Review

Electronic | Instrumental Hip-Hop | Experimental | Soundtrack

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple Music

The project of American record producer Steven Ellison, known as Flying Lotus, was a name that had been floating around in my world for what feels like many years. However, I wouldn’t properly dive in to his colorful and surreal style of hip-hop production until roughly this time 2 years ago, in which Flying Lotus released his 2019 album Flamagra.

In my mind, Flamagra offered a bit of a conundrum. While the best of what that album had to offer spoke of a project that defined 2019 as a whole year, it was the sheer numbers behind Flamagra, in terms of tracks, that ultimately let it down for me. There were just far too many tracks on that project that either felt like afterthoughts, or were too unique for their own good, which ultimately did overshadow the awesome tracks the album had to offer, such as “More”, “Black Balloons Reprise”, and “The Climb”, ever so slightly.

So in regards to the newest release from Flying Lotus, upon discovering it had been released, I was hoping that these faults wouldn’t repeat themselves. however, there was a slight spanner in the works that I had to take into consideration when reviewing this new album; it is now playing by soundtrack rules.

Titled Yasuke, Flying Lotus’ newest album serves as the soundtrack for the 2021 anime of the same name, directed by LeSean Thomas. Said anime synopsis highlights an alternate reality feudal Japan, with advanced technology and magic. The story focuses on an African samurai, carrying the name of Yasuke, as the anime’s central character.

When I consider the type of setting that the series has on first glance, the choice to have Flying Lotus hold the reigns of the soundtrack does make a lot of sense. I feel that the producers success in fusing his signature style of production with a wide array of Japanese instrumentation, reflects just how fitting of a choice Flying Lotus’ music was for this series; bringing a style of music that reflects both the feudal Japan inspiration, and the more futuristic elements of the show.

The Yasuke soundtrack carries almost exactly the same amount of tracks as Flamagra did. However, not only does the idea of this project being a soundtrack, make the hefty listing of tracks more excusable, the more compact durations of the tracks that Yasuke carries, allows the project to have an overall runtime of just over 43 mins, as opposed to the one hour mark that Flamagra goes considerably over.

But despite my willingness to understand that this is of course a soundtrack, and has a need to be more ambient than your typical album, there were still a fair few tracks that felt underwhelming at best, which gave me an almost haunting resemblance to what I found disappointing about Flamagra. Even on this soundtrack, there have been moments where Flying lotus has shown that he can strike a perfect balance between having a track work well with moving image, whilst being an enjoyable tune in its own right. And for me, this made the duds this album had even more glaring.

But with all that said, I would still confidently say that Flying Lotus made an incredibly fitting soundtrack, especially in regards to its atmosphere and stylistic balance. Even throwing a few familiar features in there for good measure, Yasuke convincingly feels like a Flying Lotus album, and an anime soundtrack, all at once.

Favourite Tracks: Black Gold | Crust | Kurosaka Strikes!

Least Favourite Track: Fighting Without Honor

Warp Records

Enjoyment: 7/10 | Memorability: 7/10 | Atmosphere: 9/10

Uniqueness: 9/10 | Satisfaction: 6/10 | Narrative: 8/10

Final Score: 7/10

My articles mainly revolve around music reviews and analysis. A bit like Anthony Fantano, but just a decade behind.

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