Yesterday saw the release of the instrumentals version of Flying Lotus’ year old record, Flamagra, an inconsistent but incredibly dense album full of bite-sized spaz-jazz tracks and some of his best work. Steve Ellison has pulled this trick off before when he followed up You’re Dead! with an instrumentals version. But I’ve always wondered one thing – Why?
First of all, as great as the guest features on the record are, all of the best moments on the album are already instrumental anyway. Flamagra is a huge album – 27 tracks – and though it has the most amount of features out of any Flying Lotus record, it’s still 65% instrumental. So is there any point in reissuing the whole album and marketing it as “instrumental?”
The You’re Dead instrumental release came in handy, because (hot take) the Kendrick featuring “Never catch Me” is better as an instrumental. The original track just sounded like Kendrick rapping over a track, it didn’t sound like a collaboration where the music served the vocals and the vocals served the music. The music on that song is amazing and Kendrick, though great, doesn’t add anything here.
Flamagra however, does have great features that serve the music and vice versa. I can’t imagine the interlude slash lead single(!) “Fire Is Coming” without the spoken word from cinema auteur David Lynch. “Yellow Belly” isn’t the same without Tierra Wack spitting nonesense in the most magnificent way possible. The thing about “Yellow Belly” is that the beat and vocals are totally entangled. The vocals/dialogue are embedded in to the tracks and are instruments themselves.
The only moment where this whole instrumental album idea works is on “Spontaneous” which features Little Dragon, it now feels like an 8 minute suite with the song that comes after, “Takashi,” my favourite all-time FlyLo track. Other than that there’s “Actually Virtual,” which is a filler track with or without Shabazz Palaces’ Palaceer Lazero’s feature. Then there’s “More” and “Black Balloons Reprise,” two tracks that are totally taken to the next level by their features, Anderson Paak and Denzel Curry.
The Flamagra instrumentals record release is pretty much only for collectors. If you bought Flamagra upon release last year, you already have most of the exact same music. But hell, in the age of Spotify why not release it? Ultimately, it’s an interesting new way of hearing the record, and as I didn’t purchase the record last year due to the abysmal pop-up gatefold design, I might even get this one. So fuck everything I just said out the window.
Also, FlyLo co-produced the new Thundercat album and it’s one of the best albums of the year. Check it out.