Jarboe on Flying Lotus’s Album “Your Dead!”

The best music opens our hearts and minds. Jarboe on how Flying Lotus lyrically and sonically explores liberation.

11 December 2020
Photo by Timothy Saccenti

You’re Dead! is a bold, compositionally complex album that could be described as a personal reflection on the Bardo Thodol, known in the West as The Tibetan Book of the Dead. This 2014 album by Flying Lotus (born Steven Ellison) serves as a musical guide through the experience of phenomena in the bardo, the state of existence between death and rebirth in Himalayan Buddhism.

Death on the album is explored as a crossing; it is the alchemy of dissolution leading to transmutation. With songs such as “Moment of Hesitation,” “Descent into Madness,” “Your Potential // The Beyond,” this crossing is at turns a peaceful one with sounds of calming and introspective awareness, then abruptly one of hallucinatory visions of chaos and violently surreal dissonance.

“Hyper prophesied meditation” is a phrase from the song entitled “Never Catch Me,” which lyrically and sonically explores the concept of liberation. Throughout the album, luminosity is expressed sonically with a sense of joyous fascination and audible exhilaration. Flying Lotus conveys the freeing of consciousness by using different genres, an unrestrained psychedelic hybrid of electronic, avant-jazz, fusion, and hip-hop.

You’re Dead!—listened to from beginning to end in its entirety—is an effective and provocative work. In an edgy, fresh language, the artist conveys his spiritual searching and stated inspiration: “Our spirits live forever.”

My personal enjoyment of this album is intensified by listening while seated in lotus position.



Jarboe is a singer-songwriter and keyboardist who came to prominence as a member of the New York City–based band Swans.