James Blake

09.02.11 Words by: Charlie Jones

What’s the story?

James Blake grew up in Enfield, studied pop music at Goldsmiths, heard dubstep along the way, released some EPs on interesting labels like R&S, Hessle and Hemlock that – quite correctly – have been noted by a great many people for their ability to suggest new shapes of, and for, pop music. His album came out on Monday, and it’s one of the most closely watched of the last few years.

What does it sound like?

Still, personal, quiet. Like you should give it the time and space that James Blake uses so well. Many have meh’d this record, mainly because it has few spit-the-coffee-out-with-shock moments. But in a strange way, what’s so surprising is how comfortable James already is with his aesthetic. The processed vocals from CMYK, the reverb’d piano of Klavierwerke, the gentle fractures of The Bells Sketch haven’t gone, and neither has any of his bracingly adventurousness – we’ve just got used to him. And that’s neither here nor there – the sheer brains that underlie the composition come out are staggering – look at Wilhelms Scream‘s builds and breaks, the extraordinary tension and release underpinning To Care (Like You), the restraint of Measurements, for example – are dazzling. You’ve just listen in to get them.

Highlights?

Measurements.

Lowlights?

I Never Learned To Share.

Verdict?

The hype that’s been placed around this album is kind of silly, even more so than usual – and it’s actually rather unfair, because this is a record that really does exist in its own, deeply private structure. This isn’t the messiah moment many expected, it’s something far more interesting – a set of really nice songs made by an artist working totally in his own space that could only exist now.

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