Early this year, someone posted their favorite trans artists on Twitter, and three artists came up: Arca, Wendy Carlos and SOPHIE. Current black DJs such as Archangel pointed out the ignorance of ignoring black ingenuity. With this, I introduced to the group Jordana, formerly known as drum & bass pioneer 1.8.7. When I talked to Jordana, there was a tone of resignation when discussing how people only want her to revisit the painful past of getting smashmouthed by transphobes and forgotten by those who largely worship white trans artists. Though she still DJs and composes, she is hardly getting the respect deserved and there is a fear of dying a footnote of the electronic scene that once called her a pioneer in the early days of drum & bass.
I say all of this to say…we are doing a really shitty job at preserving the lives of and helping black queer artists both thrive and get their due within musical history. This isn’t to shame those without their own resources to help, but it is a fucked situation. Imagine dying nameless until the next generation decides to hold you in high regard without your knowledge.
And so we arrive at Building Something Beautiful For Me, an album that can basically be taken as Loraine James’ tribute album to classical pop minimalist composer Julius Eastman, a man who died nearly unknown until artists such as Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes, noise artist Dreamcrusher and Lorraine herself both interpreted his works and considered him a part of their lineage in black queer experimental art.
“Choose to Be Gay”, James’ electronic and brief rendition on Eastman’s 71-minute piece “Femenine”, finds James riffing over the synthetic interpretation of the original piece. The same is done with “Maybe If I (Stay On It)”. Other tracks like “The Perception of Me (Crazy Nxgger)” and the title track employ Eastman’s circular way of composing, and “Black Excellence (Stay On It)” even subtly employs the kind of layering that the original tracks had. “Stay on It” has no fixed instrumentation, yet is interpreted like an electronic orchestra giving the tribute its own angelic sheen. “What Now?” takes Eastman’s meditative “Prelude to The Holy Presence of Joan D’Arc,” a track originally composed for solo voice, and turned it into an experience drowning in ambient waves and lost memories.
Whether you have heard of Julius Eastman or not, Loraine’s tribute to an artist will do two things: make you search out his work (the man has tracks as long as an hour long, explaining how his albums are usually 3 CD disc affairs) or search Loraine’s work (they are awesome at what they do). Building Something Beautiful For Me is a hell of a way to mourn, love and uplift an artist who is a cult favorite amongst followers.