Album: James Blake – James Blake
Three stunning EP releases in 2010 earned James Blake revered status in the indie circles as bloggers, DJs and music lovers raved about his ultra contemporary sound.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this self-titled album is that Blake hasn’t relied on his strong suit of sample-fuelled electronica, which brought him such acclaim last year. Unsurprisingly questions were asked of the decision to release three EPs in one year and not an album, but Blake’s logic has revealed itself through this masterful debut LP. James Blake harnesses the techniques the Londoner has previously displayed to create a more cohesive, introspective sound. While his previous works fit in somewhere between the dance floor and horror film, this album is a gentler beast, providing an insight into the man himself.
“My brother and my sister don’t speak to me, but I don’t blame them.” This opening line in I ‘Never Learnt To Share’ epitomises the deeply personal nature of Blake’s lyrical content. More striking however, is the fact that he himself proclaims the words. Gone are the frenetic samples, replaced by the heart-felt and utterly self-deprecating vocals of Blake.
Minimalism prevails throughout the eleven tracks. Each song possesses a patience and delicacy with Blake refusing to rush or force his message. The sorrowful repetition of insecurity in ‘Wilhelm’s Scream’ avoids the trap of sounding unimaginative, on the contrary the slow bass build becomes consuming as the words “All that I know is I’m falling” embed themselves in the listeners mind.
Blake’s mournful vocals are the only constant in the album, accompaniment takes the form of varied instrumentation and a plethora of effects, rendering it virtually impossible to know what new age gadgets are being availed of at any one time. Despite the variety of sounds implemented, Blake manages not to overcrowd the LP.
‘Limit to Your Love’, the first single to be taken from the album encapsulates the minimalist nature of the LP. A brief piano intro is greeted by Blake’s proclamation “There’s a limit to your love, like a waterfall in slow motion.” His delivery is so patient the listener almost wants to drag the words out. The electronic beat is hushed beneath the repetitive piano, which in turn bows to the superiority of Blake’s voice. After this beautiful opening comes the part that will isolate the grannies from the indie kids, a booming, quivering bass line jumps out of nowhere pulling the song in a new direction without isolating the introspective sensibility.
In truth aspects of this album have no place on a pretentious teenager’s iPod. Curtain closer’ Measurements’ is a celebration of voices and echoes blended with double bass which could have been recorded at a Gospel Choir’s rehearsal.
It’s possible that with this refreshingly original production, forcing emotion where it was never allowed before, James Blake has pushed the boundaries of contemporary electronic music.