On his 2017 full-length The Ordinary Man, anonymous Nashville-based beatmaker L'Orange plays up his image as a man of mystery by making an album about magic itself. As with the majority of his work, he builds choppy beat collages out of samples from dusty old records and vintage radio broadcasts, with a fondness for classic jazz, soul, and blues. This time out, there's more of an emphasis on eerie pianos and audio hocus-pocus, particularly in the way L'Orange chops up vocals, which constantly seem to be falling through trap doors. There are enough sampled voices to provide a loose, fractured narrative to the album (concluding with a vanishing act), and while L'Orange clearly holds his own without any guest MCs, the tracks that do feature rappers are excellent, and exhibit impeccable chemistry. Del the Funky Homosapien perfectly fills the role of the evil sorcerer on "Blame the Author," and "The Difference" is a dizzying collage of scratched samples and tough yet easygoing verses from Blu and elZhi. Elsewhere, the Koreatown Oddity flows over a ghostly gospel choir on "Things Are Just Props," Chuuwee and Solemn Brigham comment on "Plastic Fame" over trippy, chiming guitars and French-sounding vocal samples, and Oddisee is typically insightful on "Look Around." A few tracks, such as "The Everyday Illusion" and "The Misery Routine," offer glimpses into a lonely, isolated existence, but the overall vibe of the album is cartoonishly spooky and fun rather than truly dark, depressing, or disturbing. Constantly full of surprises, The Ordinary Man is L'Orange's most impressive magic trick yet.
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Review by Paul Simpson