TThe pandemic may have hit her momentum, but with her new album Reflection, Loraine James is poised to solidify her position as one of the UK’s brightest and most revolutionary electronic production companies, combining IDM, ‘smart dance music’ from artists like Aphex Twin – Influenced by R&B, jazz and drilling.
Raised in a tower in Enfield, North London, James has been inspired by electronic music since her teens, drawn to IDM greats like Squarepusher and Telefon Tel Aviv: “I was always intrigued by melodic IDM and wanted to replicate it,” she says. , sitting amongst craft beer drinkers in a bar in Hackney Wick, east London. But James has gone far beyond mere reproduction.
“I’m a great living room producer,” he says. “I had a keyboard that my mother bought when she was younger. From my flat, I could see the London skyline, so I’d play the keyboard for hours, staring up at the sky. “James’s tracks have an elaborate paradoxical deconstruction: they may initially feel disconnected until you realize that every beat and beat is Intentional. She mimics the controlled chaos of free jazz, embracing dissonance and weird time signatures through flawed rhythms and synths. “My music is a bit rough,” she says. “A lot sounds a little rudimentary, but I don’t. I go back to recording because I like how it sounds. “
Her 2019 album For You and I garnered widespread critical acclaim, topping the year-end charts on Quietus and DJ Mag. James assumed her performance on Hackney Wick, just around the corner from where she’s sitting today, it was meant to be the start of his big year. “People only realized about me when the year-end lists came out, so they didn’t get to know me properly until last year,” and then the pandemic hit. “It’s like it goes up and then suddenly disappears. It’s kind of shit. “
With the tour canceled, James was forced to contemplate the state of his life, hence Reflection. “Sitting there with your thoughts for a year is difficult. I was feeling anxious and depressed. “
After leaving his teaching assistant job at the height of lockdown, unsure whether his music career would flourish if he couldn’t play live, James was left in constant concern. Music gave her a respite: “I was feeling anxious, but I was more self-confident when making music,” so she focused on her craft. “I made more music last year than I ever did in my life. I don’t know what the confinement did, but it did something! “
With his music before For You and I, “there was no emotional narrative, it was more technical than emotional.” Now on Reflection’s featured track Self Doubt, James channels the numbness she felt when she rushed out of a club, feeling anxious after a set. Although James prides himself on his “rudimentary” sound when producing his tracks, he can’t help but prepare too much for his live sets, which fuels his anxiety. “There have been times when I acted and left the club immediately afterward,” he says. “I thought it had been shit or that it hadn’t done me as well as I wanted, so I clumsily go through the crowd, grabbing my suitcase.”
James’ anxiety isn’t entirely gone as he feels pressured to make sure Reflection is a strong follow-up to his debut. “I want people to like it. Before, I never thought about praise, but now it’s in the back of my head somewhere. “
This pressure is compounded by the fact that she is one of the few prominent queer black women in electronic music. “There aren’t a lot of black faces in the lineups, so the gaps still look white. White people just want to see themselves on the dance floor. “
James finds himself in a situation that many black alternative musicians find themselves in: facing routine exclusion from predominantly white electronic music spaces, while feeling like he will never be black enough for blacks. This transitional position has been difficult for her to navigate. “I’m still learning to fully appreciate my blackness because I always felt different,” he says. “They called me Oreo”, white on the inside, black on the outside, “and other things.” Despite being noticed by prestigious publications, James wishes she could be recognized by the black community: “Even the Mobo awards don’t have any rock or electronic genre.”
However, as she grows up, James is learning to love herself: “I just stopped questioning my blackness in the last few years,” she says. The project ends with the poignant track We’re Building Something New overlaid by vocalist Iceboy Violet, who safely imagines a new world. For James, this feeling extends beyond the song. “This pandemic has done something to me. It has somewhat relaxed me and made me feel more comfortable. As in my musical creation: I just have more confidence in that. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism