Lorn - Ask The Dust (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
LORN – aka Milwaukee’s Marcos Ortega – makes his debut on UK label Ninja Tune with an album of dark ambience and twisted electronics. It’s an intriguing listen… sometimes even unsettling. But it’s not without merit.
Having shot to prominence on LA’s Brainfeeder label, Lorn came to the attention of Ninja’s Amon Tobin and subsequently landed himself a contributary position on the soundtrack of Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.
Now, he retains the darkness of that film, as well as its cinematic backdrop, to create an album of dusky, late night offbeat dance offerings that are possibly unlike any other you’ll hear this year. That also makes him unique.
By Ortega’s own admission, Ask The Dust (which derives its name from the 1939 proto-Beat classic novel of the same name by John Fante) is a “haunted, oily, smeared” album that marks more of an adventure for him… as well as something more accessible than his debut, Nothing Else, which he now views as “cold and strict”.
Hence, for all the “haunted” moments, there are accessible moments too. Album opener Mercy, for instance, hits you with waves of warped drums and edgy synths, providing a compelling opening chapter to what follows.
Everything is Violence, meanwhile, packs a powerful electronic punch, suggesting futuristic cityscapes where violence has run amok. It’s edgy, almost visceral in its delivery.
And The Well is, by Ortega’s own admission, “a soundtrack be being buried alive”, that boasts ominously warped vocal samples and clinical beats, strangely offset by the odd use of subtle piano chords.
A new element to this latest LP is the inclusion of Ortega’s own vocals, albeit strained, filtered and mashed up. But they provide the ghostly presence that lends the album its truly haunted feel. And if I’m being honest, they detract from some of the instrumentals. But it does still provide the album with its own distinct identity too.
All told, it’s a curious listen that’s difficult to call enjoyable for most of the time. But it is distinct and quite often compelling, providing several highs for those that like their electronic music to be dark and fiercely original. Indeed, it retains a pull that continually manages to surprise and impress despite several misgivings along the way.
Downloack picks: Mercy, Everything is Violence, The Well, Dead Dogs