The Pattern+Grid World EP opens with what is perhaps Flying Lotus’ most recognizable template: the fuzzed-out atmosphere, plod-nodding pace, streaking synths, and under-filtered R&B. But ascribing some sort of inflexible format to an artist such as FlyLo is selling him far, far short. The incredible scope of contemporary beat-music masterworks like Los Angeles and Cosmogramma should be enough to dispel such a notion.
Accordingly, the second track of Pattern+Grid World is a surprise, as if opener “Clay” were an elemental substance that the inimitable beat alchemist is to mold into new forms and work in across the release. “Kill Your Co-Workers” is an uptempo number that begins by channeling the cheap keys of Money Mark before the spirit of Mark Mothersbaugh introduces the offcuts of his drum patterns from The Life Aquatic OST. We end up with a restless rhythm-box and chiptune workout, peppered with samples from Looney Tunes and what I swear is the death-cry from mid-90s first-person-shooter Dark Forces.
This kind of zaniness is to be found throughout Pattern+Grid World, but nowhere as brightly dressed as in “Kill-Your Co-Workers” and closer “Physics for Everyone!,” where unpolished bell tones clamor over clattering percussion, giving ground to an invasion of hard-house hoovers. Of course, what for a moment might be just about acceptable at a particularly wonked-out electro clubnight doesn’t manage to last long under FlyLo’s deconstructive attentions — the track, like all those on Pattern+Grid World, peters out epileptically.
FlyLo’s propensity to turn on a dime has always appealed to the short-attention span, and it’s in effect here, multiplied by the lack of inter-track atmospheric consistency that glued Cosmogramma. Pattern+Grid World is even more of a dilettante’s collection, with “PieFace” dishing out a swaggering wobble punctuated by sirens short on batteries and longing for a guest rap, before “Time Vampires” takes us back to the gauzy, aquatic zones of the opener, penny-whistles burbling over slowly panning filtered keys and muted, dripping beats. This kind of alternation repeats when the beat-and-sample exercises of two-in-one track “Jurassic Notion/M-Theory” are paired with “Camera Day’s” lazy arpeggiations and, again, a preoccupation with clapped-out klaxons.
It appears FlyLo has reined in some of the sprawling, polymathic impulses that prompted him to get the harp out of the cupboard for previous releases. Or rather, he’s checked his dials and put his energy elsewhere, returning with more emphasis to the stripped-back and upfront beatwork of the eccentric dance-floor possibilities you’d stumble across amidst the tottering textures of Cosmogramma and especially LA. This is not to say that FlyLo’s reach into his endlessly diverse sonic grab-bag has somehow come back empty-handed or with only fistfuls of percussive nuggets. Rather, these sketches — because either FlyLo works systematically in sketches or this EP is rightfully a kind of workbook — are less reliant on, or embedded in, atmospheric cushioning. Although you’d be hard pressed, but very pleased, to find a shindig entirely amenable to FlyLo’s relentlessly eccentric experiments, Pattern+Grid World is certainly more pillow fight than lounge party.