Loraine James has, for the last few years or so, created some of the illest and most groundbreaking electronic music I’ve heard in a very, very long time. My introduction to her artistry came from her 2019 masterpiece For You and I, a punchy, striking body of work that takes inspiration from industrial, electronic and grime music, perfectly capturing the angst yet free spirited energy of city life and being a Black queer woman in the UK. Two years on, she is back with her second Hyperdub album titled Reflection, a fitting album title to project that embraces vulnerability in sonic form.
The album kicks off with the soulful, melodic and hard-hitting “Built To Last” featuring Xzavier Stone. The record sounds warm and welcoming, with smooth synths that are complemented by a dynamic beat and vocal performance that is both energetic and reflective. Her compositions and beat arrangements throughout the entire project are absolutely crazy – nothing here sounds safe or underwhelming. She’s going all out on these incredibly dense and intricate tracks, and this is why I love the album so much. Even the more minimal and tribal moments on the project such as “Simple Stuff” is just so dominant, its presence is almost overwhelming even though it’s dominated by one simple beat that pulsates throughout the icy soundscape. The vocal inflections on that track are crazy. “Black Ting” is another incredible track with a mesmeric feature from Le3 bLACK, who raps with menacing over an eclectic drill-inspired beat. Subtle vocal samples, synth leads and basslines dominate the soundscape of this track in particular, and the energy she’s able to create with the the spacious beat is incredible to me. “Insecure Behaviour And Fuckery” is this bouncy, jittery yet soulful track that features a dominant, driving feature from Nova, with a spoken-word like verse that complements the crazy, drum and synth-heavy groove. “Self Doubt (Leaving The Club Early)” is a reflective and almost angelic and ethereal track. The drumming on this record is still dominant and heavy, but with this angelic aura that is so infectious and gorgeous. “On The Lake Outside” is another truly stellar moment, with a phenomenal and soulful feature from Baths, who’s subtle presence makes for a memorable listen. “Reflection” takes another step back, with a synth-heavy composition that is reflective and utterly beautiful. The glitchiness and eclectic arrangements on “Change” is terrific, and the closer “We’re Building Something New” is an exceptional track to, with a stellar Iceboy Violet feature, and angelic keys that are sprinkled throughout, capturing a a more gentle and optimistic tone and feeling for the future. It’s a terrific way to conclude such a captivating project.
The more subdued and reflective tone of Reflection makes it Loraine James’ most captivating project to date. Her ability to draw influences from a vast array of genres makes it an engaging listen, capturing her eclectic sound poignantly on a body of work that sounds captivating, atmospheric, soulful and reflective. It’s a stellar album that puts Loraine James up there among some of the most innovative and intriguing musicians working today.