Available on: Brainfeeder LP
A lot has been made out the fact that Lorn is the first non-LA based artist to sign to Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label. It would be a misconception, however, to think that this somehow makes the 23 year-old, Illinois-based producer a misfit amongst the Brainfeeder family. If you’re willing to overlook his geographical displacement then it’s difficult to imagine a more appropriate home for Lorn’s music – its amalgamation of dark, often experimental influences into an instrumental hip-hop template pretty much epitomises what’s good about the Brainfeeder collective.
That said, Lorn is by no means a simple FlyLo or Samiyam clone. His full-length debut, Nothing Else, is set apart from the work of his peers by its melancholy intensity and its sheer aggressive force. Even by the standards of heavier electronic music Nothing Else’s more industrial moments – such as highlight ‘Automaton’ – pack a fair punch. It’s an effect achieved by the combination of Lorn’s meticulous, clever production and some aggressive mastering care of UK producer Chris Clark.
So, there’s certainly no denying that Lorn is a very skilled producer. Rather than simply relying on low-end frequencies to add mood and power to his beats Lorn incorporates a sort of acrobatic eclecticism, pulling sounds from unexpected places. In fact, many of these elements – the military beats on ‘Army of Fear’, the Hammond organ undercutting ‘Greatest Silence’, the clock samples of ‘Grandfather’ – could easily sound tacky in the wrong hands.
Fortunately, here they are used to great effect, creating a sonically full mix that feels almost isolating and claustrophobic. It could be described as a sort of polar opposite to the moods of the more ambient ends of UK dubstep. Whereas Burial, for instance, creates music that feels lonely by way of its breadth and space, Lorn’s productions invoke claustrophobia due to an unnatural lack of these qualities. Each track is imposing, creating the feeling that you’re trapped in a confined space where it’s just you and the unavoidable presence of the music. It’s a good feeling.
Structurally, Nothing Else flows nicely; ‘Grandfather’ is a short, relatively restrained intro leading into the day-glo leads and distorted bass of ‘None an Island.’ ‘Automaton’ is the height of Nothing Else’s aggression while the stuttering synths of ‘Void I’ and ‘Void II’ provide the album’s centrepiece.
For the second half of the record Lorn reigns in the brute force slightly to make way for largely sombre melodies. ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘Glass & Silver’ are both noticeably downbeat compared to the tracks that precede them, the latter of the two driven by a heart-string tugging, mid-range synth line.
‘Greatest Silence’ is another of the record’s stand-out tracks. It’s also an example of Lorn’s best trait – the fact that even when he’s intent of damaging your ear drums or hammering home the misery he never loses his ear for a great rhythm. Meaning that for all its intensity Nothing Else remains a consistently enjoyable listen.
Yet while Lorn’s tight, polished synths certainly succeed in maintaining a menacing mood for the record’s duration it is, perhaps, at the expense of some emotional depth. By keeping everything very up-front and always on-message it feels as if Lorn could be, at times, sacrificing some of the complexity that’s he’s certainly shown he’s capable of. It’s not that Nothing Else lacks variety – it’s certainly an eclectic album – but you can’t help but feel Lorn has more in him than just aggression and misery that we’re not seeing yet.
But maybe this is just criticism for criticisms sake; after all, there’s little denying that Nothing Else is an exceptionally strong full-length debut from an artist with clear talent. Well constructed and original; here is a record that singles Lorn out as one of the essential producers of 2010.