Experimental, the word is captured by The Flaming Lips almost perfectly as their twelfth studio record, Embryonic first released onto the scene in 2009; a strange, psychedelic journey that came encased with a double album of sprawling sounds, a variety of themes, and a hopeless abandonment of the rules. The Flaming Lips have been in the music industry since 1983, through various line-up changes, guest-musicians, and adaptions in style; The Flaming Lips are a stand-out group, recognized for their abrasiveness on the ears. A style that is unmatched by any other band on Earth, a true style that is somewhere bordering between the blurred-lines of genre, somewhere where The Flaming Lips can exist within the styles of driving desert rock and psychedelic punk, a line often blurred through many musicians, but none as clever or as ingenious as The Flaming Lips.
Their twelfth studio record, Embryonic is a play of emotional and physical themes, a tug-of-war between the existing authentic sounds of stringed instruments and percussion, but it is also a level of synthetic instruments with keyboards, a Theremin, and the various vocal recordings that are shifted to sound entirely otherworldly. Without losing the sense of consciousness and restlessness, The Flaming Lips are a progressive machine of long-winded, soaring instrumentals and chord progressions that tap into a chilling nerve at times, often striking similar to a science-fiction film as they build an atmosphere of wonder and deep excitement. There are tracks, “Evil” and “Gemini Syringes” where the atmosphere is the main focus of the track, where the instruments are gentle and the ethereal voices are nearly beautiful. Even as Wayne Coyne on the lead vocals, guitar, production, keyboards, vocoder, and Theremin uses high-pitched notes to illustrate a sense of humanity behind the mostly synthetic instrumentals. His style, and the backing vocals of Steven Drozd and Michael Ivins are wonderful when played synonymously together.
Then as The Flaming Lips begin to pick up some of the littering pieces and form a driving, more rock focused track, they can do so excellently and without hesitance. On the very noise prevalent, “Aquarius Sabotage” and “See The Leaves”, The Flaming Lips area grooving, robotic mess of sound. This is a lovely addition to their otherwise somber style, Embryonic contains moments where the action suddenly shifts and becomes a raging, rushed assault of synths, guitars, and most importantly the percussion that is so filtered and shifted that it resembles an electronic kit. Even as the later songs begin to form shape, coexisting tracks, “Powerless” and “The Ego’s Last Stand” play similar roles in being gradually rising tracks that float above for being relentless in power once reaching a complete zenith. The moans of Coyne are animalistic and drained, as he utters out, “The only way out is to destroy all traces, oh, destroy yourself. There’s no way back, there’s complete devastation…”. Relating to the senses of existentialism, humanity’s animalism, and the death of a civilization, The Flaming Lips make Embryonic become a self-medicated journey of reflection and distance.
Embryonic is also an abstract experience that derives itself of a specific genre and instead adapts to noise at times and shows where the track, “Scorpio Sword” is prevalent. “Scorpio Sword” is also a seguing track into “The Impulse” which features as a strange, and off-beat track of melodic chords, but a synthetic overlaying effect on the vocals which makes it sound similar to that of an android. The direction that these two tracks take are so obscure and off-kilter that it makes almost every other track before it stand out. The following tracks are just as odd as before, but have more directions rather than becoming monsters of droning noise.
The Flaming Lips are a progressive group of experimental musicians that push boundaries of sound and even with their twelfth album, they still prove that they have tricks up their sleeve and still plenty to say. Their motives are strange, their ideas are left-field, but their music is a masterpiece of sound that resonates from last-year, five-years, ten-years, and now thirty-years ago.