You’re Dead! review

Originally created as the antidote to the epidemic that is ‘Starbucks jazz’, You’re Dead! is undoubtedly the most potent anaesthetic of all time.

Instantly soothing, the sounds of an orchestra warming up ease you into Steven Ellison’s latest offering. Within minutes, you have fallen under completely, discarding your physical form as you plunge through the gates of the fantastical afterlife.

The transition from this world to the next is by no means smooth – a tumult of saxophones, screeching prog rock guitar and frenzied cymbals, You’re Dead! is a fully immersive experience. The voices of Kendrick Lamar, Captain Murphy and Snoop Dogg seem to wash over you in a haze as you become increasingly fixated on the intricate jazz melodies that snake throughout the album and the pulsating double-pedal beat (or is that just a remnant of life from the other world?).

However, the album isn’t as straight forward as administering four short courses of analgesic – ‘Ready Err Not’ and ‘Turtles’ meditate on the enrapturing nature of the astral plane, a world of ethereal dark synth and videogame samples. This equanimity is but a short respite before the climatic ‘Descent Into Madness’. Herbie Hancock’s splattering of sharpened ninths in ‘Obligatory Cadence’ is reminiscent of Badbadnotgood’s melancholy blend of jazz fusion, spiralling you into the unknown
once more. FlyLo’s feverish chanting in ‘The Boys Who Died In Their Sleep’ brings to life the graphic artwork provided by guro manga artist Shintaro Kago – comfortable is the last thing that Ellison wants you to feel.

In collapsing the barriers between this realm and the next, Ellison has simultaneously fused together the unthinkable combination of jazz, rap, hip-hop, prog rock and electronica into the perfect 38 minute dose – and it is lethal.

Emily Watts


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