Lorn Nothing Else

[Brainfeeder; 2010]

Styles: dubstep
Others: Ikonika, DJ/rupture, Flying Lotus

Flying Lotus, a.k.a. Steven Ellison, is everywhere at the moment. With the music press’ sensational headlines and the hype merchants translating their drooling adulation into blog posts, you’d be hard pressed to miss him. It’s surprising, then, that he’s able to find time to run such a solid label during this shower of worship. In fact, Brainfeeder has now become the standard bearer for L.A. electronic music, displaying an almost criminal level of high-quality sound from an uncompromising roster. Some of the releases are utterly stunning: Daedalus’ Righteous Fists Of Harmony showcased fragile and beautiful music sourced from thoroughly unique and unconventional sources, while Samiyam and Dr Strangeloop have both released their own starkly original, undulating hip-hop records. It’s fair to say that Brainfeeder has a good grasp of LA., but Ellison is not content with the talent from just one city; he’s had to reach further afield to stumble upon Illinois man Lorn.

Lorn is perhaps best known for his stunning remix of “Better Than” by grime MC Jammer. Lorn somehow managed to make an already filthy song sound like it had swallowed a mountain of asphalt in order to propel frequencies lower than anyone knew existed. But this isn’t Lorn in true character. Sure, his brand of dubstep is often dark with brooding textures and bass lines that emerge from cavernous depths. Sure, he at times still elicits the inner-city filth of his Jammer interpretation. But Lorn is a man who hails, as he describes, “from the middle of nowhere in Illinois” and is therefore about as urban as an Amish community.

Indeed, on Nothing Else, he strikes you as a man fed up with his surroundings, transmitting his frustrations into bass: “Army of Fear” is the AK-47-backed soundtrack to a desolate dystopia; “Void 1” and “Void 2” are suitably entitled bass-driven displays of a wasteland; and “Cherry Moon” bathes in orchestral arrangements to pad out a thick beat with melancholia. Such a bleak outlook combines with Lorn’s beats to evince a constant struggle between music that wants to be played through a club’s thunderous subwoofers and music that wants to recline in the nearest chaise longue. This sounds as though it could be fascinating, but Lorn’s music often feels awkward and clunky, unknowing of both what it wants to be and who will be listening to it. The sonics that Lorn has selected struggle to capture any nuance of originality, ultimately sounding like it’s all been done before.

Not only that, but it’s all been done better too. DJ/rupture’s Uproot blended beautiful orchestral soundscapes with dubstep beats in a far more heart-wrenching, assertive way, while Ikonika and many of the Hyperdub artists performed dubstep that could either accompany a coffee and quality read or become a club classic. Lorn, on the other hand, doesn’t know when to hold back or when to go for it, so we are left straddling the middle ground, not knowing whether to flail our arms or reach gracefully for a sip from a porcelain mug.

As such, Lorn will not be the jewel in Brainfeeder’s brightly polished crown. Sure, the label has pushed fascinating and intricate portions of electronic music onto our plates, but placed beside Nothing Else, Lorn unfortunately appears as nothing better than sloppy seconds.

Links: Lorn - Brainfeeder

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