Following the release of his breakthrough project Los Angeles, producer Steven Ellison, better known by his stage name Flying Lotus founded his own record label, Brainfeeder.
Over the past ten years he’s gone on to build his roster, introducing huge names like Thundercat, Kamasi Washington and the Gaslamp Killer to his collective.
Much like Ellison’s discography, Brainfeeder are known mostly for their boundary pushing hip hop and electronic music. An astounding amount of new hip hop owes a lot to Flying Lotus and co, for example: Flying Lotus and Thundercat’ work on Kendrick Lamar’s seminal album To Pimp a Butterfly and Mac Miller’s swimming, IGLOOGHOST’s stretching and remoulding of the grime genre and Daedalus and Tokimonsta’s ear bending DJ sets.
Brainfeeder’s influence on many musicians is evident and their stamp on contemporary music should be neither ignored nor denied.
On the 15th of December, a selection of these artists came together for a one-off show in Brixton Academy, boasting the release of BRAINFEEDER X, a 36 track compilation of familiar and unfamiliar tunes.
The set featured tunes like Thundercat’s Them Changes, Tokimonsta’s Fallen Arches, unknown songs with collaborations from BADBADNOTGOOD, and a collaboration between Shabazz Palaces, George Clinton, Thundercat and Flying Lotus (nice!).
First up was London’s own producer IGLOOGHOST. Scouted by Flying Lotus early on in his career, IGLOOGHOST signed to Brainfeeder in early 2015. Since then he has been releasing his own unique brand of grime influenced juke and hip-hop. This includes recently debuting, Neo Wax Bloom, and 2 EPs, Clear Tamei & Steel Mogu which received critical reception from fans and critics alike.
As for the music itself, it’s his attention to detail that really kept it fresh, embedding his own brand of eccentric lore within his releases, even choosing to rap in his own language on Clear Tamei.
He also chose to present some newer tracks, namely the seismic jam Bug Thief, a totally accelerated, and scattered, yet beautiful and cohesive track.
His early slot on the bill meant that the venue was still filling up during his performance: and perhaps the crowd could have been more appreciative. However, Iglooghost’s endless creative talent as well as his live energy cannot be faltered here and he kicked off proceedings with explosive, zany enthusiasm.
Next up was signee Lapalux. Hailing from Essex, producer Stuart Howard experiments with mostly downtempo, ambient glitchy jams; a complete contrast to Iglooghost’s hyper delivery but nonetheless delivered with great intensity.
Lapalux had the crowd enraptured in his thick bassy textures, each track melting into its previous, each new idea glitchy and cohesive, yet refreshing. We’re expecting a new LP soon since Ruminism was released in 2017 – in the meantime though check out his most recent EP, entitled ABOVE_BETWEEN_BELOW for an experimental take on ambient electronic beats.
Next up was Austrian synth virtuoso Dorian Concept. This guy has been working within the electronic music scene for a huge amount of time – almost 15 years – and it shows. His performance showcased a livestream of numerous cameras surrounding his synthesisers onstage, broadcasting his nimble fingers working across multiple surfaces, looping everything live on stage.
The 30-minute set was a total endurance test and kudos to him for nailing it. His skill really does need to be seen to be believed but check out this recording of J Buyers, a song performed live on the night for a taste of his unique approach to recording and production.
The next performer in the showcase was recent signee Georgia Anne Muldrow – a booming soul voice, and a true showcase of black soul magic, with flourishings of experimentation.
Muldrow produces her own beats too, a mixture of soul, funk, downtempo and trip hop. Although affected by some very questionable live mixing, Muldrow’s natural confidence pulled her through the set as she performed belter after belter – truly giving it her all, all backed by an apt live trio.
Following on in the same vein Thundercat performed tracks off his debut album Drunk, as well as tracks off of Brainfeeder X including King of the Hill featuring Flying Lotus and BADBADNOTGOOD.
Like Muldrow, Thundercat bought his unique personality and sense of humour to the stage, showing off his absolute maestro skills on the bass- a live show not to be missed. He impressively turned each song into an extended psychedelic jam, each transition with bass fills and flourishes that truly felt live and improvised. He navigated the challenging set with ease and was a total pleasure to watch.
Next, the crowd started to pack out in anticipation for Flying Lotus’s slot; promising a debut new set of unreleased tracks, and a live 3D experience not to be missed.
Employing strobe lighting as well as lasers and a visual project behind the stage his performance captured the whole of Brixton Academy. Intense, rhythmic and funky, Flylo utilised his usual experimental attitude towards layering textures, stripping beats down to their very core, then building them back up again in ways unimaginable. He also teased the audience in classic Flylo tradition with unreleased content. Namely an unheard MF DOOM track plus songs which are rumoured to appear on his new project, currently being mastered. We’re keeping an eye out for a new album at some point, early this year.
The night closed with up and coming house producer Ross from Friends, who played a stellar remix of Thundercat’s ‘Friendzone’ amongst other tracks from Aphelion EP, and of course 2017’s You’ll Understand, a gorgeous collection of reverb drenched deep house tunes. It was a strange note to end on after Flying Lotus’s polyrhythmic barrage, yet oddly calming and suited to the late night club audience that stayed on past 12am. Credit must also go Gilles Peterson for hosting and curating songs for in between sets – a playlist that can best be described as dynamic, and as equally influenced by trip hop as it was by SOPHIE.
Despite admittedly poor live mixing, and a frustrating lack of set times, it was an honour to witness Brainfeeder X fully realised; to have so much talent on one bill, all curated and nurtured in the capable hands of Ellison reminds us that we are truly living in a time of great music.
Perhaps this will just be another pocket of hot air in the landscape of hip-hop, jazz and electronica – but something tells me the contributions of these artists will be increasingly hailed in the future as they continue to push boundaries within these genres and drop classics.
Words, Peter Riddell – @peteriddell1