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From its title down, Cosmogramma, Flying Lotus’ third studio album, has an incorporeal mythos. He had heard a recording of his great aunt Alice Coltrane, speaking at her ashram of something called the "cosmic drama." The “drama” in this case was existence, with death providing respite from the interplay between the soul and reality. A young Flying Lotus misheard “cosmic drama” as "cosmogramma" on that recording. The word and its predication haunted him throughout his childhood.

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Flying Lotus (photo by Dave Walker, courtesy of Creative Commons)

He composed the music during a time of grief and burden, as FlyLo had just lost his mother–as well as his Aunt Coltrane just a few years earlier. Cosmogramma thus serves as a eulogy to his mother’s departure from this plane, and through its maximalist production explores the spiritualism of life and death. 

A confetti trail of genres, the lilting dirge that takes influence from downtempo, electronica, and soul, "Galaxy in Janaki" begins with a dizzying cloud of heaving percussion and confusion. A harp flutters throughout the stereo spectrum as an army of 8-bit touch tones surface beneath the collusion of breathy rhythm. The song moves quickly from chaos to a wavering litany of melancholy strings and what could be voices.


Like a watch of nightingales painting a silhouetted Rorschach test against a magenta sky, "Galaxy In Janaki" is the soundtrack to a world at ease with controlled chaos. The listener sails through an ocean of stardust, showered with glimmering orchestral glitching. Thundercat’s bass line enters midway through and, with mystifying precision, etches lithographic details throughout the composition. This is the kind of song that reminds you that life is beautiful; its gospel brims with mellifluous repose. It’s a quick ascension and landing, and in two and a half minutes the listener's feet touch down gently on the ground. 

Janaki was Alice Coltrane’s nickname for FlyLo’s mom, which in Indian culture is a literal translation of mother. However, the etymology of the name Janaki carries deeper shades of meaning than matriarchy. It represents balance, equilibrium and a great merging. Ergo, the galaxy of the title is a map of the universe as a blueprint for a soul. If a cell can mirror the composition of the cosmos, and fractals can end up producing logarithmic spirals, then the clandestine codification of intelligent design suggests that there is a megacosm inside of all of us. 

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Flying Lotus performing at Bonnarroo 2012 (photo by Jon Elbaz, courtesy of Creative Commons)


Much of the sampling in "Galaxy In Janaki" that gently rows the listener through its cool and comforting archipelago was taken from the respirators and various vital-sign monitors at the bedside of FlyLo’s dying mother. The cold reality of life’s end frames the arching shade of oblivion. Cosmogramma sounds like the twinkling daydream of a sleeping god or a shuddering projection of constellations. A fitful end to the album, "Galaxy In Janaki" reminds us that our soul, our 27 grams–the life that shines behind our eyes–is a tiny copy of the ever-expanding universe. 

BY: MIKE SPARKS

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