Album Review: Yasuke by Flying Lotus

Steven Ellison, or better known by the name of Flying Lotus, is a producer and rapper from California. I was a bit surprised to hear this track since he just released a project back in 2019, however this album is a bit different. Yasuke is a soundtrack for a Netflix anime series, Yasuke, which he is a part of.

The first track from the album is War at the Door. It opens up slowly with some long droning notes. After awhile you can hear the string notes drone on. After the first minute, it opens up a bit more with other instrumentation and you really get the full effect of the ‘samurai’ feeling Flying Lotus was trying to produce on here, with the horn sections and specific percussion instruments.

Black Gold turns to a more electronic synth direction, but it’s also another track between him and Thundercat. Ofcourse, you can’t have an album without Thundercat since he’s an executive producer of the Yasuke show. It’s a bit short for my liking, especially since it’s featuring another artist.

Your Lord turns the volume and direction of the album back around. With the slow and melodic flutes, you get a synth mixed in with some other clicking noises that add to the beat of the track. The second time the synth comes around, I do love how the instrumentation gets a bit louder and more grand.

Shorline Sus definitely has the more electronic aesthetic that was prominent on the second track of the album. We get the long drawn out synth notes mixed in with the bright and squeaky synth notes, which give me an electronic trumpet vibe.

Hiding in the Shadows is another vocal track that features Niki Randa. It’s pretty short, but it opens up with just a single string instrument, that is related to the ‘samurai’ feeling I talked about earlier. She just has a few lines, but the track is only a minute long.

Crust is giving me some classic Flying Lotus vibes, or even Thundercat for that matter. This is easily one of my favorites from this project, even if it doesn’t really fit the theme of this album that much. The bass is just so entrancing with the beat behind it. Then you also have a layer of orchestral strings that just add a whole new feeling to the track.

Fighting Without Honor brings us back to the original theme of the album. You have open percussive instruments to open up the track, and then after the opening, the bright, open synths, as well as some horn parts start to flood the track. They do eventually fade out as the track starts to mainly focus on the different percussive elements that have been explored thus far in the album.

Pain and Blood is another favorite of mine, the track opens up with a beeping sound, but then once that subsides, you get some dark and heavy synths with some other flute-like sounds. The production on this just reminds me of something Com Truise would put out there.

War Lords opens up with some familiar running synth notes. I tried to do some digging, but it sounds like it’s sampling On The Run by Pink Floyd. It is pitched a bit differently after putting the two together side by side, but there are similarities with the execution of the notes and with the notes fading in and out.

Sachi cuts the previous sample out, and features some very heavy and reverbed synth parts. The synths get very sloppy and messy, but I’m saying that as a compliment with how they just melt into the back of the track. The further the track runs on, it seems like they just seem to carry and drag on even more.

Your Screams is the exact opposite of what I would expect with a title like this. I’m glad it’s not super out there and crazy, but there’s really nothing new presented by the time we are introduced this track on the project. We just have your usual bright synths mixed with the low and dark bass synths.

Using What You Got brings us back to the normal Flying Lotus production with the catchy bass line. The bass line is a solid part of the track, but I’m a bit disappointed when it cuts out for about fifteen seconds. Other than that, it’s mixed with some other fun instrumentals.

We finally get another feature, and this time we see Denzel Curry return with Flying Lotus. Denzel Curry doesn’t really have much to rap over on this track so I’m surprised he’s able to get a lot out on this track. We just have some quiet electronic beat in the background, but then get some chorus of voices at the end of his verse.

Now we arrive to the shortest track on the album, Where’s the Girl? Even though it’s forty seconds in length, it’s not really saying much since most tracks on the album are anywhere from one to two minutes long. Other than that, I’m really getting an industrial type feeling with the raspy and rough percussion on here.

Kurosaka Strikes! follows the samurai theme with the various instrumentals. One thing that is a bit different is that it sounds like they’re using some chopped up vocal effects as part of the beat. Other than that, I enjoy hearing the different strings on here.

This Cursed Life tones it down to an almost, lo-fi type beat. You just have your typical quiet bass backing it and with a sad vibe to go along with it, it might be due to the vocal effects that they are throwing in on here.

RoBomb opens up with a ‘clopping’ percussive beat. As the track progresses, we get some other instrumentation, such as a dark synth. Yeah, I’m not really seeing anything to impressive with this track since it’s just a minute in length.

Taiko Time // Sacrifice opens up with some more interesting percussive instruments. We get the same ‘clopping’ from the previous track, but we have some huge bass drums or some big object being hit. After the percussive part, the second part of the track comes in with long, droning, high-pitched synths to drown out the rest of the track.

Your Day Off continues with the long droning synths, except it’s a bit more melodious than what we heard from the previous track. As I would expect with the title of the track, this is a laid back and chill type of track.

Your Armor opens up with some more interesting drums, which seems like something you would play with your hands. This is also a bit longer than some of the last few tracks so this is a return to some of the more interesting tracks. The synths just keep on reverbing and echoing in this chamber which adds a whole new level of depth to the track.

Enchanted brings an eerie feeling to the table. It opens up quietly with several different string instruments. After awhile, we get some higher-notes which almost sound like it’s from some sort of chorus section. After that, it opens up to more of a space feeling which is what Flying Lotus has excelled at in the past.

Mind Flight opens up with a video game aesthetic. You have ascending electronic notes that make it sound like it’s an introduction from an older video game. You also are brought to some vocal effects which sound like they could be from Skyrim.

Survivors is another track that sounds like a lo-fi type beat. While you would never expect it from the first few seconds of the track, once the backing beats come in, you are definitely sucked into that mindset. However, this doesn’t really add much depth to the album.

Your Head // We Won is another track that you can just lay back and relax to. On this track, we have a smooth pairing of a guitar and bass part, and as I said before, is his specialty. There are some other cool additions towards the end of the track.

The ending synth of the previous track smoothly transitions into The Eyes of Vengeance. This is definitely another synth heavy track where you have your heavy, dark and reverbed synth parts. This is also the longest track on the album, which isn’t saying much as it’s three minutes in length. However, it does seem like it’s setting up the ending of the album.

The final track we have on the album is Between Memories. We also have another familiar voice since Niki Randa is on this track as well. This is a much different style track than the first time she was on this album. Her style of singing is also much different and seems a bit more playful in nature. I guess I should have expected this album to end on a lighter and quieter note.

Overall Rating: 8/10

Favorite Tracks: Crust, Pain and Blood, War Lords, Sachi, Your Armor, Enchanted, Your Head // We Won

Originally published at

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store