Loraine James follows 2019's charming "For You & I" with this melancholy scratch pad of disparate influences, from drill and R&B to IDM and ambient. Unashamedly beautiful music that perfectly captures an uncomfortably anxious period for British culture.
We don't need to explain what a grim landscape we're dealing with in the UK right now. The fallout of Brexit, Tory austerity, corruption, fascism, systemic racism and COVID-19 mismanagement has left the country in tatters and culture is still locked into a heave-ho of cheeky privately educated poshos attempting to fight or f*ck each other. The rest of us are left to weep on the sidelines, gathering the scraps from perpetual isolation.
Loraine James offers a breath of hope with her third album, "Reflection". More focused than its predecessor, it explores the brain-dissolving isolation of the last year without tripping up into cliché or falling into a spiral of self-pity. Instead it mirrors James' listening habits, obsessions, and yearning, with a mixture of angsty electronics, sub-toppling low end and soaring pop excess.
Representing London with a subtle drill pulse that strings together the album, James weaves through sounds collected from her love of SOPHIE, Telefon Tel Aviv and the Fractal Fantasy Crew, bending pop into dreamy, melancholy forms. Opener 'Built to Last' offers a tearful take on VR club music, with a guest appearance from Xzavier Stone; 'Self Doubt' sets James' own listless lyrics against fractured drums and lost synth pads; 'On the Lake Outside' submerges vocals from Baths in a fragrant concoction of dreamy harmonics and abrasive DSP.
James saves the best for last though with her Iceboy Violet collaboration 'We're Building Something New'. The Manchester rapper echoes with sober urgency, evoking Billie Holiday to sum up complicated feelings about a summer of division, violence and isolation. James meanwhile fuses drill with out-of-time lovers pop, speaking clearly on decades of Black British dance music in the process. With her collaborators in tow, James has built something new, and it's a privilege to bear witness.