Whatever The Weather – Whatever The Weather
“How’s the weather?” is one of those questions that’s become a means toward trivial banter, an autopilot prompt for small talk in the ranks of “where are you working now?” or “how’s the family?” No one seems to be taking the question too seriously, except maybe for Loraine James. Following what has been an incredible two years for the London producer, culminating with her triumphant sophomore LP Reflection on Hyperdub, all eyes were on her next move. Who could have expected that move to be an ambient passion project released under a new alias? Her eponymous debut as Whatever The Weather sees James at her most playful and intuitive, an album that hones in on her instincts as producer and sonic sculptor and presents us with another stunning body of work.
Each composition is inspired by a different kind of weather. The premise is simple, but the nuances this brings about can be remarkable. Working in degrees celsius, the title of each track alludes to the weather state that James takes inspiration from, resulting in the tonality and mood of each piece. Working in an improvisational approach, Whatever The Weather allows us to experience James’s response to the prompts she sets up for herself in real time, so that each composition flows like a stream of consciousness from her into the space around you. The results are gorgeous, sketch-like pieces of sound art that straddle the space between James’s club experimentations and her ambient interests. Though calling the music on here ‘ambient’ is not quite right; ambient adjacent perhaps. 17° for instance opens with a glitchy beat and contrasting chords, then buzzes with passages of jungle breaks and intricate polyrhythms. James’s voice in particular becomes an essential instrument, bent into machine sounds indistinguishable as human on 17° or patterns of vowel sounds until they appear in full form on 30°. 30° is humid avant-garde R&B slow burner that folds James’s voice into its heatwaves, while the jittery, glacial trip-hop of 4° stutters forward with spectral vocal loops and touches of static.
These tracks, with their sculptural architecture and remarkable intricacy, are most guilty of betraying Whatever The Weather’s true identity. Try as she might, James can’t conceal her inherent and distinct approach to production and penchant for crafting spiralling patterns and structures. But then, she was never trying to hide herself with this project in the first place. Instead, Whatever The Weather has afforded James space to play outside of the expectations of her own name. It’s telling that the work here is largely improvised, and even more telling of James’s skill that even in improvisation, her technical prowess is jaw dropping. Where the album does lapse into ambience, it does so in lush waves of sound tuned into the frequency of the temperatures inspiring it. 25° is a sunny, summer haze collage of soft hums and drowsy keys. 10° loops an organ arpeggio around which other icy keys dance freely like dappled sunlight through grey skies. 2° (Intermittent Rain) comes in waves, like sheets of rain blanketing the landscape in succession. 36° closes the album with a balmy swelter, like radiating heat made visible in afternoon sunlight, drone synths ebb and emanate over and around each other.
Swinging from the glacial and crystalline to the humid and steamy, Whatever The Weather is a triumph of improvisation, a sort of neo-jazz cum neo-classical album that sees James play with and against herself. While it’s not a complete departure as initially anticipated, the project is likely a necessary detour for James as a means toward re-inspiration. Atmospheric and transportive, Whatever The Weather is the sort of passion project that’s easy to get lost in and will still have you returning for more.
See the music video for 17° from Whatever The Weather below.
Follow Loraine James / Whatever The Weather