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Sunday 9th of December 2018
Matt Sachs 1305 29th of April 2013 by editor 29th of April 2013
James Blake - Overgrown

Matt Sachs reviews James Blake's latest album, released on the Polydor label

James Blake is known for making electronic music, but in stark contrast to the high-energy, high-intensity, repetitive dupstep that has recently become so popular. He prefers the sparse and slow moving, often with a somewhat arrhythmic house beat and his own soulful voice. The result can be quite hard to pin down, often blurring the line between electronic and alternative, and seems equally suited for a nightclub or a cabin in the woods. On his second full-length album, Overgrown, Blake embraces this versatility, taking his sound in a number of new directions that can at times be either beguiling or confusing. His hip-hop potential is fully realised on “Take a Fall for Me”, with the help of RZA, of Wu-Tang Clan fame, but while Blake’s melody interspersed between RZA’s rather simplistic lyrics is catchy, the track feels like a RZA single produced by James Blake, and seems out of place. “Dim”, on the other hand, is completely stripped down, devoid of any beat or electronics, save for the characteristic reverb on Blake’s voice. The vocals, with their haunting echo and harmonies, are reminiscent of Gregorian chants, and, combined with the solo piano, the song is positively beautiful. Though Blake dives more fully into certain musical genres here, there are still a number of tracks that are just as multifaceted and enigmatic as his previous releases. “Voyeur” begins with a Steve Reich-inspired minimalistic loop, takes a quick detour into a soulful ballad before a thumping beat enters and turns it into underground house. There are moments of brilliance on Overgrown and experimentally it’s quite an achievement, but it’s constantly changing nature makes it hard to grasp, and there’s a lack of consistency. As a result, it has a tendency to confuse and alienate. On the album’s first number, “Retrograde”, Blake sings “So show me where you fit”—the exact question that many of these tracks beg.

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