AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Ask musicians to name someone they regard as visionary and you're likely to hear the name Flying Lotus. The record producer, conceptual artist, rapper and label head built a reputation for dense collages of sound. And in the five years since his last album, he's worked with everyone from Kendrick Lamar to Herbie Hancock and Solange Knowles.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAND OF HONEY")
SOLANGE: (Singing) Sure it didn't matter, sure it didn't matter, go on.
CORNISH: That's Solange on the latest album from Flying Lotus. It's a 67-minute opus called "Flamagra." Tom Moon has our review.
(SOUNDBITE OF FLYING LOTUS' "HEROES IN A HALF SHELL")
TOM MOON, BYLINE: Step right up and prepare to be amazed by strange, blink-and-you-miss-them concatenations of sound beamed directly from the mind of Flying Lotus.
(SOUNDBITE OF FLYING LOTUS' "PILGRIM SIDE EYE")
MOON: There are 27 tracks on this album; some last just a minute or a little longer. Rather than make typical verse-chorus songs, Steven Ellison goes for curious, eerie environments.
(SOUNDBITE OF FLYING LOTUS SONG, "BLACK BALLOONS REPRISE")
MOON: It's part of how he's rethinking that outdated construct, the long-playing album. Ellison grew up in a musical family. His great aunt was keyboardist Alice Coltrane. He says that when he's writing these scenes, his goal is to create stuff that freaks him out.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEROES")
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Vocalizing).
MOON: "Flamagra" plays like a high-speed chase through a carnival fun house - a sideshow attraction of the mind. Turn a corner and you might find yourself deep in a disorienting escape room maze.
(SOUNDBITE OF FLYING LOTUS' "ALL SPIES")
MOON: Walk a little further and you encounter George Clinton leading a team of digital munchkins through a surreal production number.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE")
GEORGE CLINTON: (Singing) Now help yourself. I know something that they don't know. Better watch your step. I know something that they don't know.
MOON: Somehow, despite the short vignettes and detours, "Flamagra" hangs together. It unfolds in a cinematic way with rousing moments followed by quiet ones followed by brain-scrambling bits of beat programming. There may be an overarching message in there somewhere - not sure that it matters. Sometimes it's enough to just take the journey through the fun house.
CORNISH: The latest from Flying Lotus is called "Flamagra." Our reviewer is Tom Moon.
(SOUNDBITE OF FLYING LOTUS' "TAKASHI")
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