Lorn: Ask The Dust Review

Fans of John Fante may ask what the seminal writer has in common with a glitchy, sinister electronica merchant.

And by that I mean Lorn’s music rather than the purveyor himself.

Perhaps for this Milwaukee musician elation and despair, the crushing and lifting of emotions, the surprising and the frightening, often go hand in hand; much like in the life of the benighted Arturo Bandini of Fante’s meisterwerk.

Setting the early pace with grinding, menacing beats on Ask The Dust is the aptly named Mercy, bursting into life with what sounds like a mechanical whip being wound up and primed for use before it’s slashed across the back of your musical sentiment.

It might be wishful thinking on my part, but in this era of double dip austerity cuts I like to imagine the “mercy” implored here evokes the sound of a Tory MP unable to take any more dominatrix action.
Or maybe Max Mosley at one of his, ahem, alleged Nazi orgies.

Ghosst shares this lacerating sensibility of its album predecessor, but on this track these are pushed to the background as Goldie-esque sounds of early mornings taking precedence. Throughout Ask The Dust, Lorn slowly morphs the mood into something unexpected so that by the end it feels like the sound of a comedown in a psychiatric ward.

And I mean that in a good way.

I mean, it’s so difficult to find a beat that suits a rocking, glass-eyed patient in a quackhouse, but Lorn seems to have managed it here.

Maybe this is his take on Fante’s Camilla.

In Weigh Me Down, Lorn himself appears to be the patient. The effect is still brutal and hectic but a melody bleeds through, with the Milwaukee maestro’s sonically processed voice providing a calming influence amidst the maelstrom of beats, swooshes and blaps.

On This the scene is set late at night, I feel like I’ve crashed my car and am rather worried about becoming a “dirty-bird” abduction by a Misery era Kathy Bates type. This sensation gives way quite quickly though, as the tune only lasts for the blink of a bat’s eye; but a blink that marks a change in tone for Ask The Dust.

Initially this doesn’t seem the case as fifth track Diamond alludes to something more sinister than the hammer happy Ms Bates; from the heavens an other-worldly creature has arrived spewing out foreboding pronouncements.

Happily this creature proves to be benign, he may even have a spare wheel, and the track becomes a dreamy slice of salvation, synths and soothing whooshes.

While titles such as Everything Is Violence and The Gun appear to promise more fear, paranoia and pain, Lorn actually starts to incorporate a fair slice of blissed out melancholia instead.

Dead Dogs makes you feel like Neo getting the call from Morpheus to get the hell out of that cubicled office, while in

Chhurch the pursuer is no longer Mr Smith but The Terminator; and I’m driving that car down some neon lit streets with the look of John Travolta post-hit on the way to pick up Mia Wallace.

I Better is Ask The Dust boiled down to a fine jus, with happy trundling morphing into menacing stabs, crashes, pursuit beats and a throbbing rhythm; encapsulating the type of everything-at-once-electronica Lorn does so well.

This is an album that creeps up on you, varying its point of attack throughout and its great triumph is that it takes the listener with it. To start with Ask The Dust rings your neck, yet by the end it’s become something you can drift off to.

It certainly suits late-night listens, as the rain lashes down outside whilst pondering life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Lorn’s new album is best served as an accompaniment to thinking about some monumental event that lies ahead, and how your life is going to be enriched for it.

But I’m still not quite sure how I’m going to feel tomorrow.

Ed Spencer

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Dates ‘n stuff

June 2012