In the climactic scene of John Fante’s 1939 novel Ask the Dust, Fante’s grieving alter ego Arturo Bandini takes a copy of his novel and tosses it into the desert. The scene resonated with Milwaukee electronic artist Lorn, who titled his latest album after the book. “I think anybody who makes art can relate to the idea of taking something that you’ve put your heart into and then casting it out into the world,” Lorn says. “At a certain point, you have to let it go, even though there’s no guarantee how people will respond to it.”
Lorn can only guess how audiences will receive Ask the Dust, the most haunted release yet from a producer known for his gorgeous yet dystopian spin on electronic music, but it’s a safe bet that more people will hear it than anything else he’s released so far, since it’s his first release for the London EDM institution Ninja Tune. Having been the first non-L.A. artist signed to Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder Records, where he released 2010’s Nothing Else LP, Lorn has experience being on a prestigious label, but Ninja Tune operates on a much greater scale than Brainfeeder.
“With Brainfeeder, it was pretty much, ‘Just give us a record and we’ll take it from here,’” he explains. “With Ninja Tune, though, it’s a big operation. They’re organizing music streams and remixes and videos, and getting my music posted in video games and British television shows. The volume is basically turned way up.”
Lorn has already licensed his music to more properties than he can list off the top of his head, including games like “Gran Turismo 5” and “LittleBigPlanet 2” and shows like “Top Gear” and “CSI,” and that income has allowed him to make music full time. He’s been able to record prolifically as a result, releasing a torrent of mixes and remixes, but Ask the Dust feels separate from anything else in his discography. It slows the grime and instrumental hip-hop accents of his previous works into something more doomy and imposing, but also more soulful and personal. A sense of confession hangs over the whole record. “I better write this one down and tell everybody,” he sings on “I Better,” one of several tracks that spotlights his crypt-keeper croak of a voice, an instrument he used to shy away from.
“I’ve been singing on my songs for a long, long time,” Lorn explains. “For as long as I’ve made music, I’ve paced around my room and hummed nonsense to myself. Usually that would turn into a melody or a bass line, or I’d record it and filter it to the point where you couldn’t tell it was a human voice. But with Ask the Dust I left it in. That was definitely part of the whole process of putting myself out there more with this record.”
In advance of Ask the Dust’s June 26 release, Lorn plays a 9 p.m. release party at the Miramar Theatre on Saturday, June 23, with Dolor, adoptahighway, The Demix, Mrhorror, km-art and Slim Brit. The Video Villains will provide the evening’s visual display.