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Loraine James on how Slate + Ash plugins and the Hologram Electronics Microcosm inspired the sound of Whatever The Weather

loraine james
(Image credit: Press/Loraine James)

Loraine James’ Reflection stood out as one of 2021’s most inventive releases. As a self-identified IDM producer, she’s single-handedly propelled the (somewhat musty) category into an entirely new era, swapping out dated sci-fi references for sonic blueprints drawn from drill and R&B, and substituting the genre’s implied superiority for an endearing sense of vulnerability.

Loraine’s latest project, Whatever The Weather, further explores the cerebral, glitched-out aesthetic that marked her previous work while taking fruitful detours into vaporous textures and overcast ambience. 

It may be released on a new label and under a new alias, but this is more than just a side project: it’s served as an opportunity for the producer to explore improvisatory approaches and unexpected influences that didn’t feel as if they belonged to her self-titled work. We caught up with Loraine ahead of the album’s release to find out more.

loraine james

(Image credit: Press/Loraine James)

What was the thinking behind your decision to create a new alias for this album?

“I had a few songs on whilst making Reflection that I liked, but didn’t know what to do with. I thought I’d start another project, and it turned into another alias.”

What led you to decide on the weather-related theme, in both the artist and track names? 

“Track titles are often the last thing on my mind. I just thought I’ll tie in the name with degrees. I don’t know if I’ll continue doing that, but I thought it’d be cool in this project.”

Do the temperatures have any relation to the mood of the music?

“It’s just based on warmth, how warm or cold a track sounds to me. Obviously someone else could listen to it and think that’s 10 degrees colder.”

What prompted you to choose Ghostly International as a home for this project?

“I’ve been a fan of Ghostly for many years, like with Hyperdub as well. They reached out to me, and I did a remix for Lusine last year. It was just an open-ended conversation about possibly doing a record with them, but I didn’t have anything on at the time. I thought this album would be perfect for it.”

When you were sitting down to write or record, were you going in specifically with the intention of making something for this project - as opposed to a Loraine James track?

“There were some songs where I thought: is that a Loraine James song, or is it something else? The Loraine James stuff has more structure, but Whatever The Weather is a bit softer and more ambient. The next record might take another form, I don’t know what that’ll sound like.”

I actually only started learning Ableton for live stuff, but ended up producing with it as well

You talked about doing a lot of improv on this record. How do you create a balance between jamming and improvising, and more structured tasks like arrangement and mixing? 

“Sometimes I don’t like thinking, this part has to be exactly four bars, and so forth. Sometimes I’ll hit the record button and just go, ignoring the metronome and just doing whatever. I’ll improvise for five minutes and condense that into a song.”

On previous albums you’ve worked with a fair few guest vocalists. What led you to avoid that on this project and focus on your own vocals?

“I didn’t imagine this record to have people on it, it just didn’t make sense to me. I love the Loraine James stuff being much more collaborative, with vocalists from different musical backgrounds. A lot of the stuff that I make is by myself, but either I don’t release it or it becomes a Bandcamp thing.”

Could you pick out one or two bits of equipment - anything from a synth to a plugin to an effects chain - that were fundamental to the making of the new record? 

“I used this Kontakt software called Slate + Ash on a few songs. They messaged me one or two years ago about it - I didn’t have anything Kontakt-related, but I downloaded it and tried it out, and ended up creating a lot of cool stuff I’d never really made before. A lot of the songs on this project were from that. Some of them didn’t make the album, but a lot of the demo stuff.

I’ve never used an actual synth in my stuff before, so it’s been cool playing with the Novation Peak

“You can throw in any bit of audio to the plugin, so I’d go into either Logic or Ableton and quickly jam a riff, a five or ten-second riff, throw that into Slate + Ash and do something from there. I didn’t really use their own sounds, but I wanted to see what my own stuff would sound like in there.”

So you’re using both Logic and Ableton - are you using each for different tasks?

“I pretty much just use Ableton. There’s been a few times, like on Sensual from For You and I, that I’ve played the keys in Logic and added stuff in Ableton. I find it easier to work in - I actually only started learning Ableton for live stuff, but ended up producing with it as well.”

Has your studio set-up evolved significantly over the past year or two, as your career has progressed? 

“I’ve mainly been sticking to what I know. I did get a Novation Peak last year, which I’ve just started using. I’ve never used an actual synth in my stuff before, so it’s been cool playing with that. I’ve just got a pedal, too, and I’d never used a pedal before - the Hologram Electronics Microcosm. It’s really nice, I like it.”

There’s definitely a glitchy sound to a lot of your music, with a lot of small and subtle variations in your beats and melodies. Is this mostly achieved through close editing of audio on the timeline, or are you using any hardware, like the Microcosm for example?

“Sometimes I’ll manually do it myself, I’ll just really randomly cut up wherever, copy and paste and randomly change the pitch. I’ll do a few bars of that, then listen back to it to see if it makes sense to me or not. I did that for a while, but doing that for a whole song is quite long. In some parts I’ll do it manually, and in others I’ll use Beat Repeat and Glitch 2. It’s a mix of those.”

What was the thinking behind the decision to ask Telefon Tel Aviv to master the record? 

“I look up to him a lot. I know he’s sick at mastering stuff, and I just thought it’d be wicked for him to master it and make it sound as good as possible. He did a really good job.”

In terms of influences, were there any particular artists or albums that were inspiring you while you worked on this project specifically? 

“Not massively, I was sort of in my own bubble at this time. I started this record while I was still making Reflection, I was just finishing that off, and Reflection was a different mindset. This record was less personal, and there was less to think about structurally. I don’t think a particular artist or record inspired me, but it was a nice thing to do opposite Reflection.”

You’ve talked before about a fascination with math-rock and Midwest emo. I can hear that in some of the melodies in this record, especially in those melodic patterns on “6 Degrees”. How do you think those styles have influenced your own?

“It’s really just the way I play the keys. I want to get back into that - after school I would just play on the keyboard, and a lot of it was inspired by the guitars in math-rock and Midwest emo. I definitely want to incorporate more of that again, I used to do that a lot before I released anything properly.”

Are you planning to tour this material at all? What’s your live set-up looking like for these tracks? 

“Just one show at Cafe Oto. The live set-up’s looking pretty much the same. I haven’t rehearsed at all, so I’ve got no idea yet, but I reckon it’ll be pretty similar to the Loraine James shows. I’m just using a MIDI keyboard, the Novation Launchpad and the Launch Control.”

Do you find yourself improvising much when you’re performing, or are you mostly trying to recreate what’s on the record? 

“There’s bits of it where it’ll sound like the record, but sometimes I like to play a glitchier version, or a slower version, or a sped up version. It’s often dependent on the environment and the line-up I’m on. Sometimes I’ll play really late shows, and I feel like I can’t play a song like it’s meant to be played. But I don’t really like it to sound exactly like the record - I feel like you could just stay at home and listen to that.”

What have you got planned for the rest of 2022? Are you working on anything new?

“No, not at the minute. There’s a couple of things coming up, but I haven’t worked on anything new this year. I feel like I might start on another Loraine James record this year, but I don’t know yet.”

Whatever The Weather’s self-titled album is out now on Ghostly International.

I'm the Tech Features Editor for MusicRadar, working on everything from artist interviews to tech tutorials. I've been writing about (and making) electronic music for over a decade, and when I'm not behind my laptop keyboard, you'll find me behind a MIDI keyboard, or a synthesizer. 

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