Flying Lotus and Martyn in London

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  • For weeks in advance of Flying Lotus' recent London appearance, Soundcrash had been enticing us with the promise of a stunning audio-visual show by the AntiVJ collective who have arguably produced some of the most brilliant AV structures of recent years. Unfortunately, what was provided was a shambolic mess of confused musicians and irrelevant visuals. Martyn began the night with a showcase of new material from his recently-released Ghost People, but playing to a half-empty Roundhouse he seemed almost as out of place as his new album does on Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label. His stonkingly precise sound formed a central focus to a set which effortlessly flitted between more pure techno, and its arguably-defiled dub counterpart. Being far removed from a club setting, Martyn must be credited with directing an appropriate and appreciated sound at the gathering crowd. Kutmah then constructed a warm-up bridge between Martyn and the approaching FlyLo, diluting any segregation for those who had yet to connect the Dutchman with the Californian, but this was done with an almost generic dose of drenched West-Coast beats which, in fact, added further incongruity to the night. Nevertheless, the crowd appeared somehow prepared when Flying Lotus lurched onstage, and opened with one of his hazy anthems, a reworking of Lil Wayne's "I Feel Like Dying." Although this wasn't pure FlyLo material, it was a promising introductory accompaniment to the visual show that had been introduced as a visualisation of "The birth of the universe." The early release of revolving asteroids and planetary cores were beautiful enough, but as soon as Mr Ellison apologised for the visuals "not working as planned," the repetition of the angular shapes became infuriatingly more noticeable and after a few minutes of stunning future-urbanism, eventually stuck on a hyper-speed experience which looked unfortunately similar to Windows 3.1's Starfield screensaver. Perhaps a full-on live set (as was advertised) may have redeemed FlyLo, but by the halfway mark it was clear that we would be treated to anything but: several of the tunes played were recognisable and overplayed compositions by musicians far-removed from FlyLo and his genre of squelchy beat—Portishead, Tyler the Creator and, even more surprisingly, The Rolling Stones all featured. No amount of knob-twiddling and teeth-baring grins could have compensated. The only tune which was given a rewind (an unlikely event at a live show in any case) was a generic dubstep remix of Waka Flocka Flame's "Hard in Da Paint," which was somehow the best-received tune of the night—surely as disappointing for the headliner as it was for the many still-flummoxed audience members. Although Flying Lotus' music is often created out of incredibly complex tapestries of sound, his live shows are at their most impressive when the music is not forcefully accompanied by accessories, an absence necessary in order to allow the intricacies of his sound to develop independently. Tonight, it was these unnecessary additions that meant the distraction not only of the audience, but of FlyLo himself, who appeared pre-occupied by the surrounding failings of others' attempts to enhance the un-enhanceable.