Sunday, July 03, 2011

James Blake

James Blake
Atlas Records
London, UK
February 7th, 2011

Click here to hold this.

It took me a while to post this album, because the first few times I heard James Blake I hated it. The EPs that preceded this album received rave reviews, but seemed like a nightmarish mess of noises, cliched 80's synth, and regurgitated hip hop and R&B tropes. Even when I heard the debut LP, I was quick to judge it as lacking imagination, but I wasn't looking at it the right way. James Blake's first release is an extreme experiment in minimalism, like a Rothko painting or a frame filled in with just one color that you have to take a course in art history to understand why it's hanging in a museum.

Videos for "The Wilhelm Scream," "Lindisfarne," and "Limit to Your Love" below.

Most songs repeat one line over and over again with a void of space in between the words and keys. For example, the third track is five minutes of "My brother and my sister don't speak to me, but I don't blame them." The repetition becomes the singer torturing himself with guilt over and over again, quickly peaking in some electrified sci-fi synth that overpowers the words. In a clever little bit of morose comedy, the song is called "I Never Learnt to Share."

One of the most interesting parts of the album are the songs "Lindisfarne I & II." Both songs share certain lyrics and both are vocally modified, but the first part doesn't feature any instruments. The breath of the song in the spaces between the words surprisingly fills it well. It's two ways to tell a strange tale about a crime, buses, beacons, birds (kestrels), guns and cute girls. Lindisfarne is an island off the eastern coast of England and is called the "Holy Island." Apparently, the name is old English for the island of "travelers from Lindsay."

James Blake has been compared to Bon Iver a lot, but that's garbage. For Emma, Forever ago was more about acoustic simplicity than minimalism. Perhaps they do share a similar depth of self-torturing emotion, but James Blake is closer to Daft Punk than anything else.

On the album, James plays around enough with his style that the repetition doesn't get boring. "Unluck" is one of the most diverse songs on the record, to ease the listener in as the first track. "I Mind" just warbles the title in one long breath. You even have your traditional piano James Blake for a track on "Give Me My Month." After a few listens, the melodies even get pretty addictive.

Tracklisting ::
01 Unluck
02 The Wilhelm Scream
03 I Never Learnt to Share
04 Lindisfarne I
05 Lindisfarne II
06 Limit to Your Love
07 Give Me My Month
08 To Care (Like You)
09 Why Don't You Call Me
10 I Mind
11 Measurements

Video for "The Wilhelm Scream" ::

Video for "Lindisfarne" ::

Video for "Limit to Your Love" ::

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