Not content to be the most talked about producer in hip hop, Los Angeles electro-funk producer Flying Lotus has went and started himself a label. Not a vanity label, either – Brainfeeder Records is already showcasing a tight selection of the best of LA’s emergent ramshackle hip hop scene, including such I-should-have-checked-that-out-by-now names as Dr. Strangeloop, Samiyam and Daedelus.
And now, Brainfeeder has an outsider, a lovably insecure out-of-town kid. Enter Lorn, a camera-shy beatmaker who makes a point of hailing from “Middle of Nowhere, Illinois.” Technically, he fits in fine, probably better than he knows. His timing feels “organic” – you can’t quite predict, down to a millisecond, when that next beat is going to hit, and the cut is funkier for it. (The stop-start quality of FlyLo beats that started as a tic and has become essential.) He uses digital distortion the way Thurston Moore uses guitar feedback. As catchy as it is, there’s a melancholy cloud over this stuff, and anyone who got up and danced would look drunk.
But Lorn is the outsider. He’s dark. He’s different. And, although anyone who hangs out with him will probably think he’s pretty cool, he defines himself in terms of his outsider status.
If FlyLo’s 2008 classic Los Angeles was an epic tribute to his city, Nothing Else does a damn good job of capturing the loneliness, paranoia, and bored rage of being a big dreamer living in the middle of Mellencamp country. This is warrior music. “Army of Fear” thumps like the end of the world, backed by all the machine-gun fire in an office drone’s daydreams. Even “Cherry Moon,” a virtual ballad, generously ladles the despair over its expansive, cathartic beat. And, holy shit, this stuff is rich. A symphony of wow, flutter, and wrenching crescendos of noise. So deep and detailed, you’ll want to respin it in slow motion.
So, Lorn takes himself pretty seriously. But he doesn’t roll out without a gorilla in the trunk. Of the Brainfeeder catalogue to date, this is easily the banger of the bunch, the hardest, deepest funk in the place, well beyond anything FlyLo himself has done. Maybe it’s okay that Lorn is so fixated on darkness. If he decides to rock a party, someone will call the police.