After a long summer of speculative web-murmuring by every click-monkey in the hype machine, hip-hop lovers need no longer contemplate the true identity of Californiaâ€™s man of mystery, Captain Murphy. Last weekend in LA, the anonymous rapper stepped out from the shadows and onto the stage in a sequined gold cape and a ski mask. At the end of his live debut to a sweatbox of devotees, the hood was thrown down to reveal the benevolent grin of a familiar face. And the word was out: Captain Murphy is Flying Lotus. The world keeps spinning.
What endures isÂ Duality, the Captainâ€™s 15-track debut featuring guest bars from Earl Sweatshirt as well as Brainfeeder peripheries, Jeremiah Jae and Azizi Gibson. Production credits on the tape boast not only a new swamp of FlyLo instrumentals, but also the collected beat-power of Madlib, Just Blaze and TNGHT. With a patchwork of audio pinched from anything from the Heavenâ€™s Gate Cult Initiation Tape to the Simpsons, the tapeâ€™s backdrop winds up sounding like something close to the sound collages popularized by an early MF Doom. With the constant re-pitching on its vocals, the project also calls to mind Madlibâ€™s helium-huffing alter-ego Quasimoto. Like Quasimotoâ€™s, Captain Murphyâ€™s world is a smoked-out cartoon universe sated with ADD references to everything in the urban nerdâ€™s imagination. Streetfighter, Star Wars and Batman are all bases covered here. Unsurprising given its collaborative conception, the bars onÂ DualityÂ tend to thrive in the same lyrical vein as Odd Future: heavy on sniggering non-sequiturs and rich in lewd wordplay. Though often clever, the release falls short of offering an overarching theme as everything tumbles down a rabbit-hole of stoned gimmickry. Once looped into the swing of the Captainâ€™s â€˜swag of seven sailorsâ€™ though, youâ€™re unlikely to notice, less even, care.
In fairness, Ellison really finds his voice in the dark lyrical universe ofÂ The Ritual, a moody after-party narrative that rides through moonlit woods to a carnal sex-rite before an open fire and a â€˜blonde girl whispering in my ear thatâ€™s she a virginâ€™. Crucially too, these macabre fables are all fed to us over the top of the past yearâ€™s premium in rap instrumentals. At the end ofÂ Gone FishingÂ andÂ Mighty Morphin ForeskinÂ we get the pleasure of Ellisonâ€™s crates reconstituted into short musical afterludes, instrumental moments that borrow heavily from the darker side of seventies psychedelia. For those looking for stand-outs though, look no further thanÂ Between Friends, an eerie-beautiful back-and-forth between CM and Earl Sweatshirt that will stay with you for the rest of the day. Thereâ€™s one final cherry on top of this hip-hop pudding too:Â DualityÂ is all yours to watch in its original form in hyperspace, a cracked-out 35-minute video stream available over atÂ www.captainmurphy.xxxÂ Grab a spoon, doopid.