The Rates: Loraine James shouts out her favourite underrated artists

Each issue we ask an artist to share three musicians they think have gone under-appreciated and three new names who they hope will avoid a similar fate. This time, London experimental club producer Loraine James discusses her selections

In September, having now worked under multiple aliases and collaborated with many of her contemporaries, London-based electronic producer and musician Loraine James will release the fourth album under her own name via Hyperdub. Gentle Confrontation expands further on an electronic sound that encompasses IDM, drill’n’bass and ambient. By her own admission, James “was more deliberate in wanting to put my teenage influences on the album, so it sounds more broad.” The record is an amalgam of forward-thinking electronic music that is coloured by the distant comfort and longing of nostalgia. During our conversation for this feature, we talk about discovering music as a teen and James’s predilection for post-rock, math-rock and midwest emo.

We speak on Zoom shortly after she returns to London from a string of dates in Australia. The next month or so is a rare period of respite; a chance for relative calm before touring and album promotional work begins to gather pace. James begins our chat by saying: “I haven’t done an interview in ages, so feel a bit rusty.” On the contrary: she’s verbose and candid, and never far from self-deprecation. Touring, she says, “is just a lot of motorways and McDonald’s”, and now home she can work out how to use an Ableton software update, “which apparently everyone is having an issue with. The last few shows I’ve been having the longest two-second audio cutouts of my life. I think I managed to sort it in the last show, but it’s annoying me!”

Gentle Confrontation is set to expand her profile and will rightly gain plaudits that will bring her sound to new ears. Still, when talking about her previous job as a teaching assistant, James can’t help but check herself: “I loved it. I always say if this flops I will go back. I’ll slowly walk back in and be like, ‘Hey’, then I’ll sit down quietly.” On the strength of her latest set and her burgeoning reputation, the classroom will have to wait.


Loraine James: I’m going to start with Aus, who is this great Japanese producer who I discovered in my days. He has this really cool song called ‘Fake Five’ which is in a 5/4 time signature and is very cool. I met him briefly when I was in Japan last year which was very nice. In my late teens and early 20s I was listening to a lot of Japanese electronic artists and he was one of them. He also owns a label called Flau, which has Cuushe on – she’s released stuff on there with Iglooghost

Theo Gorst: When you met, was he familiar with your work?

LJ: Yeah, I did a remix [‘Drip’ from the Cuushe WAKEN Remixes LP] for his label, so we’d chatted then. He said he was coming down to my show and sent me a picture of a pack of tissues with his label sticker on it. 

TG: Is that nerve-wracking, hearing someone you admire is coming to your show?

LJ: I get nervous meeting anyone to be honest. I’m quite a shy person, I never really know what to say. I get really awkward when people say, “I like your stuff.” It kinda reminds of when someone is singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and you thank them but don’t know where to look! In Japan I only knew how to say ‘arigatō’ [Japanese for ‘thank you’]. I was rinsing that word so much, I felt bad I couldn’t say anything else.

Anyway, Aus has a few records out; he hadn’t released anything in years, but he just put something out called ‘Until Then’. His last stuff was like seven, eight or nine years ago, as he’s been focussing on the label. I would start with Lang [2005] – that album is really good. 

J Albert

TG: J Albert is one of a few artists on your list who you’ve collaborated with. How do these collaborations come about and work?

LJ: J Albert and I would send stuff via Dropbox two or three years ago. We collaborated on [2020 EP] New Year’s Substitution 2 where I’d had this idea of making a record in seven days. So I asked a bunch of people and he was one of them. I started something off and sent it to him and he’d then send bits back… Even now he still sends me stuff – there’s something about his stuff that is unique. He recently put out an album the other day with a guy called Will August Park. I think it’s a bit more experimental and ambient and is kind of in the classical world, which is something I’ve not heard J Albert do before.

TG: How do you find collaborating, is it hard relinquishing control or is the unpredictability exciting?

LJ: Yeah it’s an exciting thing. Around the time [of New Year’s Substitution 2] I really hadn’t done much collaborating and that was something I wanted to do. It was weird doing something and sending it off and wondering what they were going to do. Sometimes it’s just a case of someone sending something to me and I’ll not know what to do because I think it’s good as it is and I can’t find a way in. I still struggle now, there’s been a few times when I’ve said to someone, “I don’t think I can do anything to it.” Maybe I’m just not that good! 

Since New Year’s Substitution I’ve collaborated a lot more and there’s more collaborators on records after that, especially the new one coming out. Just to broaden my sound – it’s good not just to be listening to me, myself and I. 

TG: Making a song every day for seven days seems like a really interesting limitation to place on yourself.

LJ: I make music quite fast anyway. I deleted it years ago but I had this thing on Bandcamp called 5 A Day where I made five songs in a day. I like the idea of bouncing really quickly. 

TG: I heard somewhere that some of your songs are written in 20 minutes – what’s the longest a song has taken to complete? 

LJ: There’s a song on the new record called ‘Tired of Me’, and the main sound is a synth thing I made in 2015 and had been playing live for ages. For this new record I wanted to make a new version of it but it kept not sounding right. I wanted to get a violinist on it but that kept not happening, so I ended up changing it again. That took a long time, basically – 7 years! I think I’m more or less happy with it now.

Eden Samara

LJ: Firstly, I think Eden has one of the best voices. When she sent me the vocals to ‘Running Like That’ [from James’ 2021 album Reflection] I had goosebumps. On her new record, Rough Night, I really enjoyed the slightly more pop side. I think there’s going to be big things for Eden and I’m not just saying that because she’s my friend! Hence why I asked her to be on my new album. She’s someone I’ll definitely continue working with in any shape or form. There’s a bunch of great producers on her album too, like Call Super, Shanti Celeste and TSVI. 

TG: She grew up in rural Canada, where the internet became a big thing for her in finding community and opening up musical doors. Although you grew up in London, it seems like the internet had a similar effect on you? 

LJ: Yeah, and it’s different now, now it’s all algorithms. Although I’ve found good stuff on [Spotify playlist] Discover Weekly, on you were actively looking for yourself, whereas now it’s given to you. Which I miss – or maybe I don’t because I can’t be bothered anymore. Bandcamp and NTS are where I discover stuff now, or DJ sets posted on Instagram. Even Shazam, I’ll happily whip out my phone to Shazam stuff. I do that a lot on holiday.


TG: Speaking of NTS, you recently played Korean duo Salamanda on your show.

LJ: Yeah, I hadn’t heard of them until I was in Japan. The person showing me around mentioned them a few times, then we played together at this festival. When I got home I checked their stuff out, there’s a couple of really cool live sets on YouTube. They’re minimal, pretty and ambient. I really like that style of ambient music; it’s a bit more leftfield. They’ve only released one or two albums but I’m definitely hearing people talk about them now. You’ll hear a lot more about them. Their album Ashbalkum is really good, Human Pictures is a good label as well. 

Xzavier Stone

LJ: I discovered Xzavier Stone through Bandcamp during the pandemic. His stuff is very R&B, but on the more electronic side. He produces everything himself, I also like the way he uses vocal processing effects on his voice – it’s very smooth. Through me liking his stuff I asked him to be on Reflection

He put out an album last year, which I’ve played a few times on NTS. I definitely think he should be way bigger than he is, not many people are doing what he’s doing – I think he’s criminally underrated. ‘SilverTab’ is a good place to start off with, from the XZ EP. I reached out to him on an Instagram message, which I love, as I don’t like talking to people. We only met the first time at the beginning of this year and met again a couple of weeks ago. 

TG: Do you have a theory on why certain things are underrated?

LJ: There’s so much music and so many more artists that I think a lot gets lost. Even browsing through Bandcamp tags is harder as there’s so much stuff. Back in the day I’d browse every few days and I’d reach page six and be back where I was a few days prior; now you can scroll through like 40 pages and still be going. 

The Mercury Program

TG: This sounds to me like Tortoise – I’m surprised it’s not way bigger.

LJ: Exactly, I think that’s what it is, maybe it’s because other similar stuff was coming out at the same time. Of all the instrumental post-rock bands The Mercury Program are my favourite; I’ve been trying to buy their vinyl for ages but I’m not paying £100 for it. I used to listen to them a lot, like on the bus or on the train. It’s nice ‘study music’; it’s very calm. There’s a lot of space in it. A Data Learn The Language came out in 2002 and it’s one of my favourite albums of all time. I’ve definitely tried to make some Ableton versions of post-rock and have failed miserably. 

TG: Have you ever released any of the post-rock stuff you’ve written?

LJ: There was a time when I put stuff on Bandcamp that was kind of post-math, and was made on Logic. I deleted that when people started going to my Bandcamp. I thought about putting one out a couple of [fundraiser days] Bandcamp Fridays ago – something I made in 2014 – but then chickened out. But I think I’ll throw something out by the end of the year or maybe next year. It’s me trying to fuse an electronic thing into a post-rock thing; trying to combine everything I like. But the guitar sound I used to get is just awful. Terrible to listen to. I was trying to do it on this new record, with ‘One Way Ticket to the Midwest’. I got Corey (Mastrangelo) from a post-rock, math-rock band called Vasudeva to do the guitars on that. It’s nice to be in a position to ask people I’m fans of to help me.