[album review] lorn: nothing else

December 26, 2010

Album cover for Nothing Else by Lorn

Lorn: Nothing Else (Brainfeeder, 2010)
£5.04 from [eMusic] (requires membership) – £6.99 from [Boomkat]

Released back in May, Nothing Else marked the first release on Steven Ellison’s (a.k.a. Flying Lotus) Brainfeeder label by an artist not from Los Angeles – 23 year old producer Lorn (Marcos Ortega) hails from Illinois.

Perhaps because of this, the album isn’t the cosmopolitan melting pot of sounds and sources that FlyLo and the rest of the LA contingent throw at you, wearing their eclecticism on their sleeves (albeit often quite brilliantly).

Nothing Else is a more focused, defined and altogether darker work than its label peers – all of which counts in its favour. The timbres Lorn has chosen are a satisfying mix of industrial, synthpop and dubstep – crunchy, metallic and clean with sub-sonic undertones. And every one of the twelve tracks (some editions carry a 13th bonus track) on the album draws on the same palette making it flow and cohere more than the fleeting, fragmentary nature of the music would otherwise allow. (This double-concentrate album mix illustrates the point nicely.)

So what of the music? Ranging between one and four minutes in duration (the album lasts just over half-an-hour), many of the tracks on Nothing Else represent musical ideas rather than fully realised works – something it shares with other Brainfeeder/FlyLo releases. And therein, like those other releases, lies its weaknesses.

The strongest tracks set a rueful, if not mournful, tone: Glass & Silver utilises nostalgic synthpop beats and arpeggios while Cherry Moon offers a more contemporary – and effective – reprise of the same mood via its bell-tone melody line, slow-attack strings and rattling percussion. Automaton‘s ricocheting beats and glissando rave-synth melody and Grandfather‘s ominous prelude aren’t bad either.

Opportunities to extend the connection elsewhere on the album are squandered, however: Void‘s slo-mo dubstep could have built over an extended period to provide the album’s most potent moments had it not been annoyingly and pointlessly cut into two shorter vignettes. Meanwhile, Army Of Fear – an aptly-named militaristic piece with ghostly overtones – is fun but doesn’t develop much beyond ‘game menu screen’ music status (Call Of Duty: Zombie Ops anyone?).

The other tracks simply don’t cut through musically, their value almost wholly reliant Lorn’s abundant production skills – he is a much better producer than composer.

In this respect, Nothing Else brings to mind Ratatat, the New York electronic indie duo who similarly trade in phrases, sketches and motifs. Lorn offers a grimier version of Ratatat’s work, and is similarly enticing – and frustrating.

Ortega clearly harbours musical as well as technical ambition, but he doesn’t quite do the former justice on his debut album. There’s still time though, and there are enough promising clues on Nothing Else to suggest Lorn is one to watch.

close to 94 rating: ★★★★★★★

This review is part of close to 94‘s [emusic club], which reviews one album from the eMusic catalogue every week from a selection refreshed every month.

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