Apr 19, 2013 Web Exclusive
It seems that James Blake is still in a bit of a funk. His latest effort, Overgrown, rarely pulls out of its state of cloudy despondence, the 24 year-old producer-cum-songwriter instead demonstrating a sensitivity to subtle changes in a single hue, mood, and tenor.
The key ingredients to Blake's music remain the same—shadowy electronic production and gospel-infused keyboards providing a vehicle for his murky confessionals—but elegant and imaginative production doesn't distract from the fact that this is a record of uncertainty and discouragement. Overgrown finds a particular theme in temporality and the inevitability of change—"I don't want to be a star/but a stone on the shore," he pines on the album's title track, while "Life Round Here" finds Blake despairing over the impermanence of "part-time love." Perhaps it's a comment on an industry that finds its next cult icon before the previous track has finished, or perhaps it deals with more personal trials. Either way, it chimes with an atmosphere that pervades the entire record.
Despite Overgrown's general insistence on being something of a mewling kitten, Blake does occasionally invoke different frames of mind with his music. "DLM," for example, feels like a post-apocalyptic psalm, sung from the rubble of a church that once stood proudly, with Blake reducing his artillery down to just piano and voice. In contrast exists the carnival rhythm of "Voyeur," its claustrophobia invoking the sense of a clammy futurist club-night in which time seems to have stood still.
While Blake hasn't attempted anything startlingly new on Overgrown, he's certainly still the master of his own musical vocabulary—effortlessly compounding dark and nebulous electronic production with a soul, gospel, and R&B aesthetic. His lyrical turns represent an artist riddled with uncertainty and skepticism, but he shouldn't worry—his music remains inimitable. (www.jamesblakemusic.com)
Author rating: 7.5/10
Average reader rating: 8/10
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