Flying Lotus’ 2008 album, Los Angeles, begins with an ominous astronomical loop, setting a heavy tone for his esoteric blend of cosmic electronica. The song, titled “Brainfeeder,” doesn’t seem fit for this world: it sounds like science fiction on wax, like an alien hovercraft ascending from this world and onto the next.
Four years later, and Lotus’ boutique record label — also called Brainfeeder — is a reflection of his own distinctive makeup. From Ryat to Teebs, Martyn to Thundercat, each producer is an extension of Lotus in some way. Their music is downright weird and unnerving. The artists seem to revel in their uniqueness, casting aside any notions to conform for commercial reception. They create what they want on their own terms. And Lotus doesn’t seem to mind; in fact, he probably endorses it. Here’s five essential Brainfeeder albums that any electronic fan should have in their arsenal.
1. Thundercat, The Golden Age of Apocalypse
A dynamic bassist, Thundercat could’ve earned a decent living without saying a word. His fluttering chords are equally distinguishable and ambient: he never overpowers the songs on which he’s featured and he always finds a way to leave a mark. Then there was “MmmHmm,” arguably the best song on Lotus’ 2010 album, Cosmogramma. There, he sang lead vocals and played bass with great abundance. On The Golden Age of Apocalypse, Thundercat rode the momentum with a focused set of electro-funk instrumentals and soul ballads, shrugging off sidekick status with one of 2011’s brighter releases. On “For Love (I Come Your Friend),” Thundercat surpassed the George Duke original with calm vocals and a frenetic outro. The bassist is working on his second LP. Who else could make Scooby Doo sound so cool?
2. Teebs, Ardour
Released in 2010, Ardour was a kaleidoscopic journey through lush melodies and atmospheric lullabies, set atop flashing chimes and offbeat drum programming. On its face, Teebs’ debut album was a calming ode to Southern California beach life — sandy beaches, alcohol, and ocean breezes. Beneath the surface, Ardour reflected a producer finding peace with himself, leaving behind the East Coast grit for something a little more serene. It sounds like he found it here.
3. Jeremiah Jae, Raw Money Raps
Jeremiah Jae doesn’t rap, per se. Instead, his moody mix of hip-hop depends upon scattered ruminations and disconnected thoughts.On his contemplative debut, Raw Money Raps, the brooding runs wild. “Your mind is awake, but only awake to certain things,” Jae groans on “Guerilla (Evolution Pt. 1).” This is hip-hop on a trip, but it’s unclear whether it’s a natural high or a drug-induced one.
4. Ryat, Totem
Ryat’s Totem is peacefully chaotic: its distilled soundtrack makes it feel barren, yet the high notes give it a certain depth. Nothing here feels scripted, with sound feeling out of time, and lyrics come in whenever — if at all. This is headphone music for androids, and Ryat’s the director.
5. Daedelus, Righteous Fists of Harmony
This one’s somewhat tough to classify, which doesn’t say much for a Brainfeeder album. Parts of it resemble Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine” (“An Armada Approaches”), while other songs emulate breezy bossa nova (“Order of the Golden Dawn”). Overall, Righteous Fists feels a bit nomadic, yet grounded enough to sustain your interest. It’s like a travel log come to life. And when you have Daedelus soundtracking, there’s nothing wrong with roaming.