James Blake

Here is something that I wrote for a much longer post earlier this year, which featured James Blake:
“Does James Blake really need any introduction? The blogosphere has collectively gone into overdrive over the 23-year-old dubstepper. He has three EPs under his belt, which made it into Pitchfork’s top 10 albums of 2010. Pitchfork says: “He still pledges allegiance to dubstep, but his actual sound is more like a computerized collage of black American music- compositionally, he owes more to early jazz like Erroll Garner than Burial.” His album leaked a few days before Christmas and you only have to search for his name on Twitter to see why people have been heralding him as the future. Whether he makes it into the mainstream agenda or not is another matter though. He only played his first live show in December. The songs, both from the album and the three preceeding EPs don’t exactly scream number one, but if this list were based on talent and originality alone…”

Well since that article, people have been coming out of the shadows and proclaiming that perhaps James Blake is not quite the person to take dubstep, or whatever you want to call it to the next level. The Quietus said it was “Dance music for bedwetters, they might decide. And from here it would be difficult to disagree.” Drowned in Sound gave it 5/10, saying, “A whole album of haunted-treetrunk insect ballads with no beats would probably be a treat, as would 40 minutes or so of squealy razor assaults on urban pop’s condensed history. Both would play to his strengths markedly more than what’s been delivered here.” Blogs have had their say too. Pretty Much Amazing, talk about ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ and why “Blake has become such a phenomenon over these last 12 months: his ability to eternalize soulful r&b over cold, calculated electronica, a seemingly impossible task before he dropped Bells Sketch.” Over at Heineken Music, Chris Jones discussed the album: “it’s when Blake calls upon his dubstep background and production nous that he is most successful, supporting the fragile songs with fractured rhythms, acidic synths and enormous payloads of sub-bass, as on ‘Limit To Your Love’, ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ and the wonderfully sensual ‘To Care (Like You)’. In other words, it’s not time to desert the clubs just yet.” Essentially Eclectic gives a good rundown on Blake, asking the question of whether we should even classify him as ‘Dubstep’.

Doubtless to say, you will read much more about James Blake in the coming week and, if things go to plan for him, the coming months. But just like the internet built him up, it seems to want to drag him down. With great hype comes extra skepticism where everyone wants a reason to hate. The other thing is that, because he has featured on everyone’s ones to watch list, and the BBC’s Sound of 2011 list, the commentators online have to have an opinion on him. And the opinion will be very extreme, as you can see from the sources above.

So James Blake: Is he worth your time? The album is a sonic masterclass, in these ears at least, but that is because dubstep (or whatever you want to call it) is not my specialty. The music does take you somewhere else though. And whereas the final track, ‘Measurements’ may be called ‘dreary’ and ‘sparse’ (Chris Jones again), others may think the exact opposite, wondering how someone can create such stunning emotional music landscapes. So shall we get into the music? Below you can listen to the three EPs which gained him such attention in the first place, plus the videos for ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ and ‘Limit To Your Love’, and a live performance of the former.

Heere is the video for ‘The Wilhelm Scream’.

‘Limit To Your Love’ is a Feist cover and blew me away. After all the talk, it was the music that finally won out.

Here is the first EP, The Bells Sketch:

James Blake – ‘The Bells Sketch’

James Blake – ‘Buzzard And Kestral’

James Blake – ‘Give A Man A Rod’

The second EP, CMYK

James Blake – ‘CMYK’

James Blake – ‘Footnotes’

James Blake – ‘I’ll Stay’

James Blake – ‘Postpone’

The third EP, Klavierwerke:

James Blake – ‘Klavierwerke’

James Blake – ‘Tell Her Safe’

James Blake – ‘I Only Know (What I Know Now)’

James Blake – ‘Don’t You Think I Do’

You can buy all the EPs on iTunes and pre-order the album on iTunes here. It is out in Ireland tomorrow, Friday, February 4.