“For a long time I didn’t even know Black composers existed. It’s not just an absence, it’s erasure – it feels as though there was effort made to leave him out.” This is from Loraine James’ Guardian piece on the making of her incredible new album Building Something Beautiful For Me. She’s talking about Julius Eastman, a black composer, pianist, vocalist, and performance artist whose prolific output was between the late sixties and late eighties (until his untimely death in 1990). She is, of course, right. The attempted erasure of Black artistic influence is not necessarily news, and so many a lot of artists, past and present, have not been adequately acknowledged by the wider music and arts community. Techno and house music, as genres, originated from Black people. So did rock music. So did hip-hop. And so much contemporary music nowadays is driven by Black creatives, who like Loraine James, are making timeless and important music.
Building Something Beautiful For Me is an album directly inspired by Julius Eastman’s compositions. Throughout the 8 tracks and 44 minutes of music, Loraine James is able to capture the intimacy and beauty of his compositions, while sharing her heart on synth-led melodies that capture so much beauty. From the gorgeous opener “May If I (Stay on It)”, with incredible synth-led keys and glitchy beat, it sets the tone for the album. The synth keys that reverberate throughout the album are beautiful and delicate, creating a reflective and mesmeric energy that feels like cinematic. “Choose to Be Gay (Feminine)” is a highlight on the album, with its powerful, minimalistic synth and Loraine’s vocals that are just so incredibly emotive. The energy on “Enfield, Always” is upbeat, with incredible drumming and chimes that reverberate throughout, making for a colourful and engaging piece of music. “My Take” similarly has a more upbeat and animated energy to it, while “Black Excellence (Stay On it)” is a rhythmic track that turns into this disorienting, cacophonous piece that is just incredibly poignant. The subdued “What Now” (Prelude to the Holy Presence of Joan D’Arc)” closes the album out with a beautiful, serene soundscape that captures the delicate, moving nature of Loraine James’ music.
Building Something Beautiful For Me is a powerful and beautiful homage to Julian Eastman’s music. The emotive and immersive body of work is led by Loraine James’ immense talents as a composer and producer. Her ability to create nuanced, textured electronic soundscapes via the lens of contemporary classical music is truly inspiring, and this album is testament to her talents.
Released via Phantom Limb.
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