Gentle Confrontation

Gentle Confrontation

The lead track on Loraine James’ Gentle Confrontation opens with a brooding wash of strings fit for an art-house drama, then explodes into thrashing, distorted drum programming. In that contrast lies the essence of the London electronic musician’s fourth official album, which follows both 2021’s Reflection and the 2022 eponymous debut of her ambient side project Whatever the Weather. Much as its title suggests, Gentle Confrontation thrives on clashing energies. In many ways, it is James’ most richly nuanced album yet, suffused in hazy clouds of synthesizer, electric piano, and vaporized samples, yet her glitched-out drums have never sounded more desperate. In “Déjà Vu,” her beats tangle and contort beneath RiTchie’s deeply soulful vocal harmonies; in “I DM U,” her cut-up breaks approximate the drill ’n’ bass of vintage Squarepusher, yet her synths have rarely sounded more ethereal. In many songs, she makes the most of her guests’ distinctive voices: Set against the chaotic syncopations of “While They Were Singing,” Catalan singer-songwriter Marina Herlop’s crystalline vocal harmonies sound even eerier than usual. But James herself frequently provides the emotional center in her half-murmured, half-rapped delivery—even when her verses are only half intelligible. “We like to think on and think on it,” she muses in “Tired of Me,” and then, in “Disjointed (Feeling Like a Kid Again),” she picks up the theme: “Lately I’ve been thinking about it,” she begins, before looping back in a halting voice: “Lately I should stop/And just think…” Songs like this make Gentle Confrontation feel like a self-portrait of a searching, doubtful mind.

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