The Colour in Anything
May 13, 2016 Web Exclusive
When I first heard James Blake's voice through his "Wilhelm Scream," I pictured someone altogether different from a shy young lad with a blushing smile. I'm pretty sure everyone did. His computerized cries sounded of weathered experience and the quiet torment of someone who's seen more than he's wanted to. He sang as if possessed by ghosts of souls long forgotten, seeming to carry forward their yearning calls to be heard again. But Blake was simply a young man barely removed from adolescence, alone at his console, conceiving an electromagnetic vacuum for his burgeoning romanticism to dwell. He let you in on thoughts that echoed in a world of shadow and shade, allowing for the musical space for his expressions to hover and linger, inviting listeners to explore it as he had done.
There have been many followers into those spaces found in Blake's creative shelter and on his third album he has become an assured and confident tour guide. He has discovered them anew from the shift in perspective that comes with age and found fresh shades and ranges of the color within its lines. The Colour in Anything doesn't show a dramatic shift in his surroundings, but more an expansion of its boundaries.
Evidence of maturation is the instinctive angle to take on any closely following work from an artist introduced as a precocious talent. The evidence here doesn't jump out at you, mainly because it doesn't constitute a bold leap. The growth is more suggestive than pronounced, and is found in the details. Tunnels of minimalism have opened up into canyons of dimension, as on "Always," and Blake's astonishing vocal range takes on a variety of forms throughout, thrown in a field of distances between foreground and background. The bring-you-to-your-knees piano ballad "Love Me in Whatever Way" demonstrates the full vocal and lyrical bloom, with his refrain of "Tell me when I have to go and then love me there" indicating an emotional maturity along with his broadening production reach. It seems Blake has emerged from his shelter to take a few strolls around the block.
In an era of 9-12 track albums, The Colour in Anything comes in at 17 songs and the amount invites you to explore and absorb at random, offering moods and tempos beyond just the ruminative and forlorn. "I Hope My Life" displays something you've always admired from Blake in his willingness to stick with the momentum of a house groove once he's gotten it rolling and "Two Men Down" bounces to an acoustic guitar strum new to his repertoire, striding onto a plateau with the feel of something off of OutKast's The Love Below.
The pulse of The Colour in Anything continues to beat for the soulful searchers but announces an emergence for Blake, turning an inward gaze outwards and upwards. Over its lengthy course there are moments where you wish he would pick things up a bit and lean in more fully to his ambition (like on the Bon Iver duet "I Need a Forest Fire"), but the ambition is unmistakable nonetheless. There is no doubt further ground to cover with Blake, but for now, take in the new scenery. (www.jamesblakemusic.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 7/10
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