In front of an estate, a hand holds a picture of that same estate. The picture dates back to 2006 and depicts the place Loraine James grew up in, in North London. This is the artwork of For you and I, her debut album for Hyperdub, and we can already tell two important things just looking at it. First, it’s very personal. Second, it’s a tribute to London, or at least it’s viscerally informed by the city.
Switching from the visual to the aural one can’t help but be amazed by the heterogeneity of the music, and by how Loraine James manages to make her album very intimate, something neither common nor easy in electronic music.
For you and I feels like a diary, an album “more about feeling than about using certain production skills”. Yet it’s those production skills which fascinate us, keeping the engagement rate always high. Each track feels almost like a world in its own. Not only there’s variety between each composition, but often there are dynamic – and unexpected – changes within them.
Consider how the opener “Glitch bitch” starts off as a keyboard house anthem with hypnotic vocal loops, and slowly morphs into a Four-Tet-meets-AFX IDM track over just three minutes. Or the twists and turns of “So scared”, whose synthetic and glitchy industrial percussions suddenly erupt into a jungle breakbeat replete with layers of vocals, before being driven by a spoken word mantra. “My future” also presents vocals in the second half, as its atmospheric irregular beat turns into a spoken rap song after two minutes. Vocals are provided by Le3 bLACK, who also appears on “London ting // Dark as fuck”. Blending industrial distorted percussions, spoken rap, and colorful synths, the song is a claustrophobic London chronicle. The other track that features a singer is “Sensual”, one of the most touching pieces on the album. Again, what’s most striking is the apparently irreconcilable contrast between the angelic soulfulness of Theo’s voice – very sensual, indeed – and the glitchy IDM beat. The result sounds like the remnants of a pop song transmitting from a half-broken soundsystem.
Although it is compared to “a live jam session with a jazz mentality”, For you and I is marked by a meticulous attention to sound design and subtle details. Yet the jam session may be the best metaphor to account for the careless polymorphism of the album. It bursts with ideas and energy; the personal struggles of being in a queer relationship and having to deal with issues of public display of affection, as well as the contrasting feelings that characterize human life, are all vividly palpable here.
Melodies and harsh beats; footwork-style vocal loops and sung, spoken or rapped words; introspection and energy; the whole album is a frail, striking balance of different elements.
The title track features melodies reminiscent of happy hardcore but applied to more abstract structures, while on “Scraping my feet” the urge to express one’s feeling is felt through the constant ebb and flow of rhythm and melody. But the pinnacle of James’ eclecticism and confidence at the production desk is probably “Vowel // consonant” with its chimes, skittering beats and sci-fi undulating melodies. There’s a never ending evolution throughout the track, which best reflects the spirit of the album.
For you and I is a compendium of Loraine James influences and creative output, a visual and sonic photography of London where the past and the present are juxtaposed but not exactly overlapped. Another precious stone in the Hyperdub catalogue, and a flawless record to introduce this young and talented producer to a wider audience.