6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A definite stand out record of 2011,
This review is from: James Blake (Audio CD)
Living in a time where the music consumer can comfortably access and listen to any artist he or she chooses, past or present, I think there's an onus like no other on this generation of new artists to produce music that's truly distinctive. Whether James Blake conciously understands this or not is debatable, however the uniqueness of his self titled debut is certainly not up for questioning. The computerized experimentalism of Blake's highly acclaimed slew of 2010 ep's, already saw him crafting a unique lane for himself yet he upped the anti on this eponymous release by moving away from the laptop somewhat, to present his elegiac choir-esque singing voice as the main selling point here. Not since Kid A has an artist been able to match emotive balladeering and forward thinking electronica as successsfully as James Blake does here, his songs each one brilliant in their own right, are equal parts challenging and emotionally provocative.
The soulful sound of Blakes ineffable vocals were heard permeating over spartan piano chords and glacial snare snaps when his version of Feist's "Limit To Your Love" dropped before the release of this album and I (perhaps like many) thought that the excellence of that track would dwarf any songs that sat beside it on a full length LP. "Unluck" quickly sweeps away any pessismistic doubts you may of had, with it's enchanting array of quicksilver clicks, mmanipulated synths and multi layered vocals coming together to mesmerizing effect. Although James Blake uses vocoder and autotune in this opener, the humanity in "Unluck" somehow remains completely intact, it's as though JB has unlocked the dormant power lieing in machines to enhance our voice's ability to convey sadness and despondancy.
"The Wihelm Scream" is the real jewel in the crown here though, it starts off sparsely with muted synths, lonely snare hits and touches of watery music concrete beofre transforming into a blaze of cathartic post-dubstep with the simple lines "I don't know about my love, all that I know is i'm falling falling falling, might as well fall in" looped throughout the songs duration adding an extra level of pathos. "Lindasfarne I" is another snapshot of pure beauty, with James blake's vocodered upper register vocals reminscent of Bon Iver on "Woods", Blake doesn't aim for heavenly transcendence like that track though, he put's much more of a focus on delicacy and ambience to achieve a strong sense of intimacy and calmness.
Although the back half of this album isn't filled with as many obvious highlights, blakes crooning is largely front and centre from "Give me my Month" onwards and it's a delight to hear his untreated voice and his minimal piano playing without as many embellishments as he really plays and sings so well. Some have taken issue with James Blakes mantra of less is more here and even though i'm patently a huge fan of this record I could understand why adrenalin junkies would consider this LP a remedy for insomnia. Nevertheless; Fans of Steve Reich, sufjan Stevens or The XX will doubtlessly be "as in love with this as I am" and should most definitely check this out if they happened to miss it upon it's release almost two years ago.