Loraine James' 'For You and I' Glitches and Queers the Spaces of IDM and London
On For You and I, Loraine James rightfully claims the title "Glitch Bitch" to explore what it means to be queer in the spaces of IDM and one of its places of origin, London.
For You and I
20 September 2019
For so many of us, the history of IDM (intelligent dance music) is conflicting, something cherished but also problematic. On the one hand, the genre's origin story is soundly tethered to some of the most influential electronic artists since the 1990s, including the likes of Aphex Twin and Autechre. On the other hand, the name "intelligent dance music" pompously asserts elitism. Both the aforementioned artists have criticized the acronym for misrepresenting the complexities of other electronic styles. "It's basically saying 'this is intelligent and everything else is STUPID.' It's really nasty to everyone else's music" Aphex Twin told Jason Gross.
But most of all, there is a deeper cultural issue with the dominant narrative of IDM as it majorly pedestalizes white male artists. IDM, by its name, detaches from and devalues its predecessors. Their claim to "intelligent", then, disregards the many Othered people of color and genders who also pushed the intellectual boundaries of electronic music, such as the African American artists who pioneered Detroit techno, or now, the queer people who deconstruct club music.
As such, artists like Loraine James are here to glitch and queer the narrative. On her second full length For You and I, she rightfully claims the title "Glitch Bitch" to explore what it means to be queer in the spaces of IDM and one of its places of origin, London.
For You and I is noticeably inspired by IDM, but it certainly glitches for a different purpose. In "Queering the Borderlands", Emma Pérez intimates about dominant narratives, "all of these and more must be reinterpreted with a decolonial queer gaze so we may interrogate representations". Coincidentally, the act of distorting the dominant gaze resembles one of IDM's main techniques, glitching. And for James, glitching creates schisms in normative structures, creating spaces in which new expressions can emerge.
So, For You and I declaratively begins with "Glitch Bitch". As the distorted fray of percussions flickers and builds, wet synths spin endlessly. Then, James' girlfriend joins in affirming, "Bitch step it up bitch / Bitch level up bitch." Together, they make sense of the surrounding mess. They intimately share sounds and word of queer love in a genre and about a city that has built histories of heteronormativity. In moments like these, James doesn't only glitch sounds but also the spaces of IDM and London.
Even so, For You and I still struggles with the many "ups and downs that come with that", as James words it. Her girlfriend returns on "So Scared" to convey such downs. "You're over there, so fucking scared," she says. To heighten this paranoia, militaristic drums become increasingly violent, but even more, they embody a swelling reaction to violence. "I only feel fully comfortable in a few places, and that's not fair. I shit myself just holding my partner's hand for five seconds in public; afraid someone's going to beat us up or something", James told Bandcamp Daily. So, in music, she creates and finds safe spaces, combating the violent realities of living as a queer person in London. In music, she can wholly represent herself without intimidation, and in music communities, she can truly express herself with embrace.
Then in a space of her own, with her girlfriend and community, James conceives For You and I as a candid representation of her reality and a proud expression of her identities. On "London Ting / Dark As Fuck", the featured Le3 bLACK spits over the abrasive industrial beat, "Look at my skin / Dark as fuck", addressing racism and police brutality. While on "Sensual", the featured Theo softly croons over torpid glitches, finding moments in which queer love still flourishes amid oppression. Such moments of collaborative, unbound expressions help expand James' personal narrative further, contextualizing the majorly instrumental album with personal stories and intersectional theories.
The album art for For You and I depicts James holding a 10-year-old photo of her old flat in front of the real, present flat. It is the same setting, but of course, it is not the same space. For, it is not the structures, even as daunting as they are, but the people who ultimately determine the culture. "I started making music in those flats. News of my Dad and Uncle passing away happened in that flat. I came out to my mum crying in that flat," James explained. And, through glitching, she inserts these intimate moments in opposition to the oppressive structures.