Örsten: Cutworks

The debut artist album of Örsten pays tribute to the cinema of the ‘60s and ‘70s using a cut-and-paste technique as the basis of an approach that originated when the budding sound scientist was only fifteen (hence the album title). Born in Helsinki but now settled in Paris, the twenty-nine-year-old musician touches upon a wide range of moods and emotions in the twelve-track release as he overlays a sample-based foundation built from strings, beats, and pianos with synthesisers and vocals—think trip-hop, crate-digging, and a melodramatic moodiness that emotively and stylistically calls to mind Nightmares On Wax, Portishead, and Barry Adamson. Throughout the forty-six-minute follow-up to his 2004 EP Airport Taxi, elements of jazz, soul, and funk work their way into Örsten's cinematic brew.

On the album's strongest track, “Fleur Blanche” drapes mournful piano melodies over a lazy trip-hop groove in a way that suggests it's the best track Portishead never produced, with Beth Gibbons's wrenching vocalizing the only thing missing. Adding to the hypnotic cut's brooding atmosphere are turntable squiggles and a female singer's wordless musing. Perpetuating the downcast mode is the “Change Your Mind,” which inexplicably pairs its laid-back, rain-soaked pulse and electric piano-and-synthesizer colourations with an “I'm just diggin' like John Travolta” sample. Strings, electric guitar, and synthesizers stoke a noir-like simmer during “Between Night & Evening” that would appeal to devotees of Barry Adamson. Whereas “Long Story Short” opts for a slightly sunnier disposition in its gently breezy, jazz-tinged flow, the album takes an obviously darker turn during “Mediatainment” when newscast snippets relating to the 9-11 attacks and an on-the-scene television reporter describing a family tragedy appear alongside an ominous instrumental track, Örsten's obvious target the media's exploitation of trauma for the purposes of ratings gains. “War” and “Don't Make me Shout” deepen the album's cataclysmic tone before the graceful, classically tinged “Adagio sostenuto” counters the darkness of those tracks with a measured hopefulness. While hardly revolutionary, Örsten's unassuming Cutworks nevertheless rewards one's attention for presenting its wide-ranging material with such evident craft and skill.

February 2011