Total Pageviews

Monday, 21 March 2011

James Blake

James Blake has managed to create an astonishing and atypical album centred around electronic music. Habitually one of the criticisms that can be levelled, is the lack of emotion and soul, but Blake provides these in more than ample proportions. In particular there are two reasons for this, firstly his voice, controlled, although hinting at a touch of fragility, adding to the heart rendering nature of his subtle tones. Even through a vocoder in "Unluck," or "I Never Learnt to Share" elements of real passion are still apparent.  Secondly, the sheer intensity of the sub bass sounds, which resound throughout this eponymous collection, appearing from nowhere on occasions, providing a throbbing, pulsating backing and in "Limit To Your Love" fashioning a fluttering resonance of apocalyptic nature.

This is an album built around contrasts, in turn minimalistic then complex.  Current single "The Wilhelm Scream" a prime example as the track builds from it's inconspicuous opening to an almost overbearing intensity. "Measurements" opening with Blake's single plaintive voice until joined by innumerable layered vocals.  Although the songs are lyrically simplistic the over riding theme is quality not quantity. "I Never Learnt To Share" with the repetition of a single line "My brother and my sister don't speak to me, but I don't blame them," saying nothing, but everything without the necessity for enhancement.  Almost as if Blake is allowing an insight into his world, yet not extending a full invitation, just a gap in the curtains, rather than a front door flung open wide.

While I fully appreciate the invention and requirement to investigate sounds and structures, "Lindisfarne I" and "Lindisfarne II" almost appear a waste as the excessive use of the vocoder mask Blake's voice, probably the most distinct and breathtaking sound on the album.  It's similar to inviting John Frusciante along, then handing him a triangle requesting he leaves his guitar in it's case.  A minor quibble however, as ultimately  this is a magnificent piece of work by an artist prepared to explore and push musical boundaries.

James Blake has fathomed an important although taxing piece of work, that demands attention to detail rather than listening complacency.  A darkened room, headphones and a quality sub woofer are all required to appreciate the true splendour of his debut.