Album Review: James Blake - Overgrown

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Attempting to define James Blake’s music proves to be an arduous task, like trying to grasp vapour, or the will to live on a miserable ‘spring’ day like today. Without getting bogged down with this  ‘post-dubstep’ malarkey or whatever the boffins have him labelled as, in my opinion, Blake’s unique sound is unclassifiable; his music bleeds originality. Initially rising on the UK bass scene back in 2010, Blake’s early music provided a glimmering light in the murky depths of Dubstep. If you linger on the fence over this young producer, listen to his music loud. Your trusty laptop speakers cannot comprehend the rich and complex sounds that this man’s music has to offer. 

 

A cloud of excitement surrounds the arrival of Overgrown, James Blake’s second album, as well as huge amounts of expectation. If like me, the prospect of waiting patiently until the 8th of April to hear this album seemed preposterous, you will already know that it is a masterpiece. Overgrown offers a new pallet of fresh sounds and ideas, featuring a number of stripped-back tracks that allow Blake’s classically trained vocals to shine.

Upon my initial taste of Retrograde, the first single from the new album, I was consumed with a euphoric sense of ‘Yes. This song is EXACTLY what I’ve been waiting for.’ The song swells to an immense size, reaching its crescendo with his trademark synth blare and his gospelly R&B vocals. Brian Eno contributes to the structured chaos of Digital Lion, a track that begins slowly before the throbbing and ferocious beat kicks in. Digital Lion reminds us of Blake’s ability to seamlessly dip into different styles of music.

Overgrown oozes originality. The disjointed beats, juddering bass and tremulous vocals doused in electronic effects scream James Blake. This record could not have been created by anyone else.

Overgrown is far more developed than the first album and takes a completely fresh direction, whilst including some of his trademark touches. His songs are eerie, emotional and intangible but by god do they have some welly. It’s important not to burden James Blake with the expectations of commercial success, and rather to enjoy his music for what it is: experimental excellence. 

Deborah Todd

Currently muddling my way through student life.

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