Under his Flying Lotus codename, Steven Ellison continues to push his distinctive strain of abstract hip-hop into the direction paved by his Great Aunt Alice and Great Uncle John. You could hear the family history coursing through the interstellar spaces he explored with his cousin Ravi on 2010's Cosmogramma and that Herbie Hancock jam on last year's You're Dead!. But Ellison's advancement of creative jazz has been more crucial as curator of the Brainfeeder label, which he founded in 2008 as an outlet for himself and his buddies down at Low End Theory in Los Angeles.
Kamasi Washington's The Epic hinted at FlyLo's A&R prowess, and Kneedelus puts an exclamation point on the imprint's new direction. The relationship between exploratory, Grammy-nominated funk-jazz outfit Kneebody and pioneering Cali beat scientist Daedelus (born Alfred Darlington) goes back almost a decade, evidenced by remixes on Bandcamp and a stage collaboration at the Jazz à Vienne Festival in 2009. Kneebody saxophonist Ben Wendel and Darlington are high school friends, while Darlington and Flying Lotus go back to 1983, Ellison's debut, and Darlington's indelible remix of the title track.
What all of this six-degrees business adds up to is this supernova of a record, rounded out by Adam Benjamin on keyboard, Shane Endsley on treated trumpet, bassist Kaveh Rastegar, and drummer Nate Wood. As a collaborative unit, the friendship between the parties undoubtedly lends itself to the fluidity of these 10 original compositions. In some cases, as on tracks like the rugged "The Hole" and the hypnotic "Move", you can't really even tell where Kneebody ends and Daedelus begins. Darlington's deft rhythmic impulses come to the fore on "Drum Battle", but in other moments, the invincible horn section of Kneebody runs the show. On "Loops", Endsley's trumpet is cat-like and cool, as the group takes the scrambled-signal breakbeat Daedelus delivers to the snapping point around the horn's calm center like a hurricane eye. On "Platforming", meanwhile, Wendel's fantastic Art Pepper-esque tenor work is transformed into a wild, distorted-violin sound. Elsewhere, its Benjamin who is leading the charge on the seven-minute *Mwandishi-*flavored space-out "Thought Not", and the haunting processed upright piano he plays on "Not Love". - Pitchfork