Wisconsin born producer Marcos Ortega began releasing material as Lorn in 2006 and has been fairly prolific ever since, putting out a steady stream of music which includes two full length albums, numerous EP’s and a video game soundtrack. His debut full length, Nothing Else, arrived in 2010 on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label and it wouldn’t be long before Lorn began reaching a wider audience, including featuring on popular U.S. police drama CSI.
His sophomore album, Ask The Dust, followed in 2012 on Ninja Tune and was met with some very positive reviews. It saw a big leap forward with the addition of semi-inaudible vocals and a darker, bleaker, more menacing sound which incorporated elements of techno, grime, dubstep, industrial and hip-hop. Not only was it more a complex and creative album, but it was also more complete than his debut, placing Lorn among arguably the most exciting electronic producers to emerge in recent years.
Vessel is Lorn’s third full length album, being quietly self-released on December 30th. Followers of his social media accounts were first alerted to it on New Year’s Eve, along with a Facebook message hinting at more music to come in 2016. The timing of the release is likely why it’s been completely glossed over by critics (thus far at least), which is disappointing given some of the positive attention Ask The Dust received in 2012.
Lorn continues to evolve his sound on Vessel, taking more of a minimalist yet refined approach this time around. Featuring ten tracks and clocking in at 30 minutes, the black and white album artwork by Hélène Jeudy and Antoine Caecke reflects the overall atmosphere found on Vessel perfectly. There are some desolate and unsettling moments that certainly wouldn’t feel out of place featuring in a dystopian film or dark video game, but there are also some lighter moments too, producing a nice balance between the bleak and the beautiful.
“Broken Mantra” sees Vessel open up with its most oppressive track, leaving you bereft of hope by the time it reaches the end of its two-and-a-half-minutes. It’s a rough start but the weight is immediately lifted by the gorgeous “Anvil”, a track that is among some of the best pieces of work Lorn has produced so far. The first half of the album is topped off by the wonderfully crafted “Conduit”, which sounds like it could be a more menacing version of something Burial might produce, and “Tattered Flag”, which conjures up dark images of a future where man is ruled over by unforgiving machines.
On the second half of the album, “Dipped Intro Poison” wouldn’t be out of place on Lorn’s previous full length album, whereas “Ice” is one of the more delicate stand-out moments on Vessel. “Lock Bites Key” is a short Aphex Twin-like minimalist piece, showcasing a different approach than we’re used to hearing from Lorn. The jittery, trance-like “Mount Kwaku” sees another switch in style, before the barren landscapes of “Marooned” sees Vessel come to a close topping off a solid surprise release.
Released: 30 December 2015
Label: Self-Released via Bandcamp/Soundcloud