Loraine James has always been a keen and open-minded artist, one who’s not afraid to try out new ideas. This spirit of adventure is clearly detectable when listening to James’s second full-length release of 2022, an album that sees her starting from scratch with one of the 20th century’s most important composers.
Building Something Beautiful For Me is a journey into the music of Julius Eastman. James was given access to Eastman’s archives via the label Phantom Limb (who also released this album), giving her free reign to warp and transform his source material however she saw fit. The resulting album is unique and almost impossible to articulate and once again represents a sharp left turn from the music Loraine James has made thus far.
A history of Julius Eastman’s experimental music, the result is an album of music as sprawling and as mysterious as its muse, but also one that is firmly rooted in the present moment. James’ contribution is part reinterpretation and part reframing: she sifts through one of the most radical figures in modern Black music and excavates sounds that were buried just beneath the surface. By performing Eastman’s work herself, James becomes an active participant in an ongoing conversation about identity and expression, reasserting her own take without letting go entirely of Eastman’s influence.
As an album, it’s hard to specify what kind of music it is exactly: beats pulse beneath James’ voice and meditative synthesizers create an immense atmosphere, but the instrumentation ranges from ambient to classical to techno—and sometimes even touches on contemporary R&B. There are wide spaces in between the grooves, but always delivered with precision, detail and elegance.
One thing’s for sure, it is worth listening too because it sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before.