Loraine James and the Art of the Skeletal Beat

This is simple stuff, true, but not easily achieved.

There’s a new Loraine James album, Reflection, due out June 4, which fast as 2021 feels is far too far away. Fortunately, one track is already up. “Simple Stuff” is little more than a spartan beat and a mumbled mantra monologue, but that’s more than enough to tide a fan over. The calisthenics of its percussion are a marvel, even by the high standards James has led us to expect on previous releases like her 2019 breakthrough, For You and I, last year’s Nothing EP, and her superb remix of Lunch Money Life’s “Lincoln.”

“Simple Stuff” has the jerky start and stop, the asymmetric yet perfectly balanced form, of an expert breakdancer backlit by the setting sun, of a Calder mobile in a delicate breeze. Even more than usual for James, the metrics are here reduced to their skeletal core, each triggered impulse an isolated action. There are no percussive chords, just a sequence of precisely poised sonic objects, each given room to breathe before the next arrives. This is simple stuff, true, but not easily achieved.

Like “Glitch Bitch,” the lead track off For You and I, “Simple Stuff” has essentially just a repeated two-word phrase as its vocal material. There’s a bit more to it here, but less, too, so muffled is it for much of the track, like she’s got her mouth under a jacket collar while navigating a dense sidewalk headed somewhere. That Loraine James is headed somewhere has been clear for some time now. Our next glimpse of where comes June 4, unless she reveals another cut in the interim. Meanwhile, we have “Simple Stuff.” It’s a phenomenal piece of work, and there are 10 additional tracks due when Reflection finally arrives.

Album available for prerelease at lorainejames.bandcamp.com. More from James, who is based in London, England, at twitter.com/LoJamMusic.

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