Death is a common subject in music of all genres. Everyone has to deal with it in some way at some point in their life, so it’s an easily relatable topic in music—a genre of art that depends on connecting to listeners in some way. Often, death is portrayed as a morose, humorless topic intended to incite some form of fear or pity. With electronic composer Flying Lotus’ latest record You’re Dead!, the subject of death is explored in a myriad of ways and emotions.
Originally intended to be a jazz double album with musical partner and longtime chum Thundercat, the album eventually was stripped down to a 19-track, 38-minute sonic journey through the concept of death and what comes afterwards. The result is an incredibly cohesive and often psychedelic experience through what Flying Lotus perceives death to be.
In this respect, You’re Dead! is death music that sounds like nothing else I’ve heard. The music doesn’t occupy one single emotion, but rather rides a rotting rollercoaster through the entirety of the human psyche. There are tracks like “The Boys Who Died In Their Sleep” which suggest a kind of unhinged paranoia, while tracks like “Dead Man’s Tetris” approach death from a humorous, playful angle with lyrics from Snoop Dogg and Lotus himself, saying “Hold up, hold up, I bet you think we dead/Hold up, hold up, I have this bullet in my head.”
“Moment of Hesitation” and “Cold Dead” suggest the chaotic moments of death that stem from chaos and trauma. The instrumental palette on the album has matured significantly from Flying Lotus’ previous albums, in that he’s working with live musicians now more than ever, and has even been quoted as saying he took piano lessons to prepare for this album. The result is the work of jazz legends like pianist Herbie Hancock, who is heard throughout the album, and drummer Deantoni Parks, who has been on the rise in the experimental music scene.
Of special mention is the bassist Thundercat, whose virtuosic bass parts are heard on nearly every cut of the album. His blistering bass solo in “Never Catch Me” will blow you back on your seat, both for its sheer virtuosity, and capacity to melt straight through to your mind.
In terms of standout tracks, it’s kind of futile to choose just one, because the album is best listened to as a whole. Each track flows into the next and has something unique to offer to the overall experience. Throughout each listen of the album, the music paints pictures of psychedelic scenes and you can see the vast amounts of colors passing by as you listen to the music.
The music goes through moods of absolute chaos, to aggression and sadness, to silliness and then to moments of serenity and peace all in the span of 38 minutes, and sometimes through several moods in one two-minute track.
When the album reaches moments like the track “Obligatory Cadence,” one can’t help but be thrown into a different world and be completely consumed by the music. Moments like these come often in the album, and one can’t help but let the music do all of the directing.
One of the complaints that I have heard about the album is that some of the tracks are simply too short to warrant any kind of outside listening. While I would agree that some of the tracks are too short to provide any sort of ultra-rewarding musical experience outside of the context of the album due to the fact that each track segues into the next, I wouldn’t say that it detracts from the album in any way, because each track becomes another piece of the larger whole of the album. Albums like Dark Side Of the Moon follow a similar suit in that, while the tracks still sound good outside the album, they are strongest in context.
You’re Dead! is a trip through what I perceive to be the essential human death experience, and it may be the closest anyone gets to it in this lifetime.