Monday, 7 February 2011
RECOMMENDED: James Blake - James Blake [A&M]
“Fuck the media hype, scribes sniping at me and mine, Megatron clocking Autobots with the eagle eye. They got you covered; eye colour to your sneaker size, revolutionaries demonised, Mother Earth colonised, stolen culture commodified.” – Jehst – ‘Brimstone Rock’ [Low Life]
Whilst BBC’s ‘Sound of’ poll has bought the world Adele, many a great self deprecating interview from Gold Panda and um, Jessie J, there’s never been a nomination that’s impacted quite so hard on the wider dubstep community than that of James Blake – a producer who’s musicality and measured approach to production, releases and general profile has seen him win fans for his music alone, accumulating merit thanks to the genuinely different ways he moved a dancefloor. Blake’s eponymous debut album though, has little, well nothing in fact, to do with a dancefloor. It’s a lonely listen. An isolating thirty plus minutes of personal fragility compensated for with a brittle backdrop of stripped back instrumentation and the occasional caterwauling crescendo. It’s also completely brilliant, in an emotively introverted kind of way.
For Blake, the way his work has been publicised with an emphasis on his emergence from the dubstep scene does his song writing a disservice. ‘Limit To Your Love,’ his breakout ‘song,’ does contain basslines that will rattle the air conditioning units of every venue its played in, but the rest of album - particularly the latter part - is a baroque drift that lacks the kind of instantaneous impact, inherent within any dance music. Dispelling any notion of that myth with the slow follow up single ‘Wilhelms Scream,’ which honestly feels too echoey and emotional to be leading into N-Dubz, Jason Derulo or Black Eyed Peas on the BBC’s A-list playlist for daytime radio, Blake’s pushing his real self out there poignantly, upping his sensitivity and vocal layering to new levels.
Using a lot of the same techniques as his earlier work - namely his two preceeding EPs for R&S, CMYK and Klaviwerke - letting his compositions breathe and move fluidly, layering melodies and maddeningly pitched vocal samples and using drums sparingly, Blake creates his own world; all be it one that might break down in a fit of flailing limbs and self harm if you blew on it too hard. But that’s this record’s core strength; it’s woefully sad, full of downtrodden lyricism and outsider concerns; a collection of a developing man’s feelings captured in lo-fi glory.
Words: Oli Marlow