A reanimated corpse that sinuously dances its way through a Los Angeles community after nightfall. A photo of billowing fabric that swirls through the air like a fluid twist of paint in water. The images that are often associated with producer Steve Ellison’s (a. k. a. Flying Lotus) work, such as the short film Until the Quiet Comes and the cover art for his 2012 album of the same name, are almost always surreal and jarring, not unlike his Ellison’s music itself.
The latest digital release from You’re Dead!, an album that Flying Lotus called a meditation on mortality, is no different. “Never Catch Me” is a record that plays with the tension between the jarring and the surreal by underscoring guest star Kendrick Lamar’s rapid fire delivery with faltering jazz piano notes, a chorus of gauzy voices and the steady strumming of a bass guitar. And although Lamar is extemporizing about life after death, the record leaves you feeling you very much alive, like you walked in on a spontaneous jam session at the moment when the MC and the musicians have worked their way into something great. All of this plays out as listeners stare at the static image of a man’s head with a gaping, glowing hole where his face should be. He holds his hands up while the neon-bright outline of a lotus flower surrounds him like a halo.
The first two minutes of “Never Catch Me” are punctuated by Kendrick’s voice, followed by a memorable guitar riff. The song crests and breaks into a bare bones beat that, bereft of Kendrick’s rasp, is supplemented with ephemeral voices that hover over the production. The result is a record that is as spontaneous as it is mellow and as head-bopping as it is meditative.