Loraine James sinks her teeth into Julius Eastman's hallowed, elusive canon on "Building Something Beautiful For Me", responding to works like 'Crazy N*****' and 'Femenine' with her usual sublimation of horizontal textures and sandblasted sci-fi beats.
Already this year James has pivoted to fuzzed-aut ambience and fridge-fresh jungle with her Ghostly-primed Whatever The Weather debut, and now she's taken another about turn, appraising the output of one of the 20th century's most important composers. The project came about thanks to the Phantom Limb label, who had an existing relationship with Eastman's estate. Fans of James' music, they wondered what she would put together if she was granted access to the archive, so she was passed a selection of Eastman's original compositions, the "Gay Guerilla" biography, and transcribed MIDI stems, and was asked to respond to the material however she saw fit.
James lends a sensitive ear to her process, using samples, themes and motifs to craft an album that's unmistakably her own, but rooted in Eastman's revolutionary queer, Black artistic universe. She dissolves the essence of 'Crazy N****', one of Eastman's most notorious compositions, into 'The Perception of Me', a lengthy meditation that cascades from chiming, beatless ambience into chilly, dissonant dub-techno, spiked with James' unmistakable rhythmic tics. 'Femenine' is engineered into a sprawling, poetic soundscape, assembled around James' own vocals: "You say that I choose to, you say that I want," she chants like a mantra over slippery synthesized chords and bells snipped from Eastman's original.
Eastman's 1981 composition 'The Holy Presence of Joan d'Arc' forms the basis for James' title track, and marks the moment where she leans into Eastman's material more completely. Here we get to hear sampled strings chattering through the haze of James' pristine synths - it's a charming listening experience, and a smart, unexpected project for James.
Sonically, her music is worlds apart from Eastman's abrasive avant-garde compositions, but philosophically there's an unbreakable bond. James' Black, queer reality is separated from Eastman's by a few decades and an ocean, but the vibrations are unmistakably harmonic.