Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is Whatever The Weather, Loraine James’ new self-titled Ghostly debut.
There’s something unsettling about attempting to talk about the drastic shift in society’s endless rhythms over the past two years. Say anything too concrete, and words simply fall short. How can you begin to describe all the endless shifts, the nuances, the tumultuousness in our internal and external environments? Much like changes in the weather, the implications of change are often mutually understood or felt on a sensory level before they’re verbalized or processed intellectually.
It’s appropriate, then, that a club artist like Loraine James would turn toward ambient music in her most recent album: her self-titled Ghostly debut and first under the moniker Whatever The Weather, out on April 8. Though it’s undeniably James, its sound is a stark contrast to the intricate, unpredictable drum ’n’ bass, drill or glitch-influenced stylings of previous work like 2021’s Reflection. For obvious reasons, the pivot toward ambient feels reflective of general collective lifestyle shifts, but it’s also a visceral genre, much like the experimental club that made her one of Hyperdub’s biggest names. Whatever The Weather is visceral for vastly different reasons, of course, all-encompassing in its subtlety. The tracks’ lack of structure, combined with James’ eternal ear for emotion-eliciting detail, lends itself to rich atmospheric tones that hit on a cellular level and leave your brain too unbothered to catch up. The artist’s atmospheric orchestration gently guides you toward a listening experience grounded in relying on and trusting your senses over your intellect.
The bold sonic pivot, in part, explains the new moniker. James has been clear that she knows what music under her own name sounds like, and the music we find on Whatever The Weather simply didn’t feel like it fit her name, or even make sense on Hyperdub. She wanted this alternative outlet for her art to reflect the freedom found outside her own name. Raised by a mother with wide-reaching musical tastes in Enfield, North London, James took piano as a child and found herself drawn to the emo music and IDM she found on the internet in her teen years, among endless other influences. James said she let some of these early influences direct the record, and piano, synth and organ sit in the driver’s seat on tracks like balmy album-opener “25°C” and radiant “36°C.” Getting to enter a new space, in sound and in name, is representative of the producer’s diverse artistic interests.
“It’s just nice to direct different energy towards it,” she told Tim Sweeney in a radio interview on Apple Music’s Beats in Space. “I don’t even know what the next records would sound like; it could be not ambient at all. That’s also why I named it Whatever The Weather — just non-boxing myself [in].”
The fresh denomination also alludes thematically to the record’s loose concept. Each track is named after the temperature its sonic world evokes. But these designations weren’t a consideration for James’ during the album’s creation, and she also doesn’t view them as absolutes.
“I always think of song titles after I finish them — it’s like the last thing on my mind; I just like to take the producer hat off and just listen and the feeling that comes with it,” she said in the same interview with Sweeney. “If a track felt warm, obviously, it would be a higher degree and if it felt colder to me, then it would be cooler. But obviously, like, someone could listen to 30 degrees and think it feels quite cold to them.”
It was also special for James to release a record on Ghostly International, especially as a fan of ambient-leaning Ghostly artists like HTRK and Lusine. Most notably, Telefon Tel Aviv ended up mastering the record.
“Telefon Tel Aviv is one of the biggest inspirations,” she noted. “I could only dream that he would master it — or even take a look at it.”
Amileah Sutliff is a New York-based writer, editor and creative producer and an editor of the book The Best Record Stores in the United States.