Show Review: Loraine James at Polaris Hall

She owed Portland nothing. She gave it everything.

Lorraine James (Courtesy of Lorraine James)

The backdrop for U.K. electronic artist Loraine James’ criminally underattended set was looped camcorder footage of a tower block. The wandering camera had a How To with John Wilson-like intent, capturing little details of life in and around the building: a line of laundry waving in the breeze, a small piece of foil escaping from the closing garage door of a convenience store, wandering pigeons.

The modest visuals did have some intent. Unless I’m mistaken, the building on screen was the tower block where James grew up in North London, serving as a reminder of just how far this young artist has moved beyond those humble origins. Here she was, 5,000 miles from home, hunched over a laptop, a small keyboard, and a pair of sound modules, dousing 75 or so stalwart fans in waves of smeared beats and pixelated drones.

The hourlong performance played out like a well-rehearsed experimental DJ set. Under James’ expert control, the intensity and momentum of the music grew steadily throughout, culminating in flashes of drum and bass and broken beat jazz. And it all built to a crescendo that brought to the mind’s eye a warped AI re-creation of The Great Wave off Kanagawa.

As for James, she was all business. Dressed simply in a sweatshirt and jeans with a thin gold chain dangling around her neck, she stayed focused on her instruments. She didn’t owe the humble audience anything at all, but what she gave us encompassed the body and aroused the senses.

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