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KUMD Album Reviews: James Blake


Music is a heavy medium. It is filled with the complexity of instrument arrangements, rhythm changes and lyrical eloquence. Doing this with a group of musicians is already hard enough but electronic producer/singer/songwriter James Blake gives us his innovative take on the electronic music scene, and he does it all on his own.His latest record "Overgrown" is in a way a very spiritual/gospel record. Blake truly focuses the tracks to a specific mood but varies the styles so much you can't tell if he is electronic, R&B, ambient, soul, or even in the case of one track, hip hop. The opening track "Overgrown" sets the atmosphere with an electronic beat machine backing up ambient piano chords and high pitched strings as Blake sings "I don't want to be a star, but a stone on the shore". The track then grows with instruments as the song becomes almost orchestral with low brass and rolling cymbal effects. Blake then echoes his voice in a round. Giving the listener a ghostly choir of Blake's soulful baritone to alto voice range. The tracks overall have a bunch of varying styles. "Life Round Here" has a classic R&B vibe mixed with some halloween-esque synths, "Voyeur" uses an almost off tempo measure structure with rising and falling arpeggios from the synths to make an interesting mix. "Take a Fall For Me" even features rapping from famed hip hop artist RZA. Although it is far from the best track on the album, it really presents Blake as a multi-talented songwriter, being able to take from so many genre's and create compelling sounds. Some tracks are even conceptual. The song "Digital Lion" is definitely a vivid electronic experience, after about a minute into the track, the song starts pulsating as you hear Blake's looped wailing in the background of a very fast snare. The catchiest track on the album "Retrograde" brings you to Blake's mantra of soul and electronic music, with one of the catchiest vocal hooks to come out this year. Although this album isn't as experimental as his self titled debut, "Overgrown" really says it all in the title. Although some may call this record overambitious, James Blake has created something substantial for his discography. He's now shown us that he's well versed in many music styles and although its hard to appreciate at first listen, this is a record he wants you to hear more then once. He has truly grown into a musical force to be reckoned with.

Rec Tracks: "Retrograde", "Overgrown", "Life Round Here", "Digital Lion", "Voyeur"

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