Steven Ellison broke electronic music. His gig at Roundhouse in Camden on Saturday was one of three as part of a collaboration with visual label ANTIVJ. The converted railway shed was sold out and the diversity of the crowd stands testament to FlyLo’s genre-hopping style of hipster-approved hip-hop slathered beat heavy post-everything electronicism.
Something went wrong, though. Early on, he offered an exasperated apology to the audience about technical issues nixing some aspects of the multimedia performance. ‘It wasn’t my fault,’ he said, ‘but i’ma just do what I know.’ It was obviously good enough as the masses were in the man’s palm as he bounced around b.p.m’s in his patently itchy fingered manner, not letting any particular aesthetic sink in for too long without switching it up. It seems he wakes up listening to Radiohead’s ‘Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors,’ blasts J. Dilla all day in his car while sitting in L.A traffic, has a dubstep freakout at some point in the evening and falls asleep to ambient IDM. The cherry on top at this point is that he seems to be one Rihanna collaboration away from major mainstream exposure.
It is Flying Lotus’ studied knowledge of so many different subcultural elements stirred with an avant-garde creative flair that keeps his audience on their toes both physically and mentally. He is as comfortable lulling you into a glitch-laden daze as he is pounding your ears with distorted bass. He played to the crowd. London likes it heavy.
A fair criticism could be leveled at most electronic music genres of getting too comfortable. Ellison never does — That is what makes Flying Lotus stand so far out from many of his peers. In Camden he struck a near messianic figure, dressed in a loose white dress shirt, enshrouded in a light created pyramid of smoke dotted with lasers, his hands clasped in a prayer pose and his eyes up to the sky. The only mismatched element was the absolute shit-eating grin stretched across his face the whole time. He seemed so genuinely stoked to be there and offered reverent thanks on a number of occasions.
The audience reflected FlyLo’s reputation for breaking type — in both a good and bad way. From the inexorable and sweaty neon-clad pill poppers to bespectacled hip kids, arms folded heads bobbing, to the claustrophobic couples just looking for some space to gently grind out a baby on one another to the drunk-as-fuck louts looking for some trouble; all were about in droves and bounced together to varying degrees of harmony.
Steven Ellison is a major voice in music at the moment and knows how to please a crowd while being undeniably progressive. Upcoming collaborations with Erykah Badu and a performance at the Battles curated Nightmare Before Christmas ATP at Minehead should keep his fingers and our ears busy for a while to come.