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Flying Lotus - Yasuke

As a lifelong fan of anime, Steven Ellison was struck by the lack of Black characters in the genre. So he decided to do something about it, signing on as an executive producer of Yasuke, a Netflix series from creator LeSean Thomas about a Black samurai in feudal Japan. Naturally, Ellison—aka Flying Lotus—scored the series too. An extension of the genre-free experiments of his solo catalogue, his soundtrack for the show doubles as an ambitious act of world-building. Produced under the kinds of deadlines that don’t normally apply to his sprawling albums, this one moves quickly through different moods and styles: “War at the Door” pairs traces of trap and footwork with blockbuster-grade drums; “Your Lord” plants its flag halfway between easy listening and John Carpenter; the ambient “Shoreline Sus” negotiates a truce between ’70s Berlin and ’80s Japan. Soft tendrils of synthesiser, reminiscent of Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack, serve as a through line for the album, highlighting its sci-fi glow, though a few tracks, like the jazz-funk “Crust”, wouldn’t sound out of place on one of FlyLo’s studio LPs. And while the music is largely instrumental, a few standout vocal tracks rank among the musician’s most affecting songwriting. “Hiding in the Shadows”, featuring Niki Randa, is a quietly operatic lullaby set to Japanese strings; “Black Gold”, the protagonist’s theme song, makes the most of Thundercat’s wistful falsetto. And a feature from Denzel Curry helps turn “African Samurai” into a minimalist masterpiece. A pulse-quickening showdown between blippy electronic beats and Curry’s lightning-fast flow, it’s the musical equivalent of blades slicing through air.

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