James Blake review

Innovation and peculiar power from the dubstep artist

James Blake
4/5

Is Blake dubstep or post-dubstep? There’s little doubt that Blake adores the genre, finding his inspiration stoked at FWD>>, with early remixes of songs under the moniker Harmonimix, plus a flurry of excellent singles paying a debt to the body-quaking, bass-wobbles of Coki, Skream and Benga et al. But his debut album cannot be danced to.

Blake bravely embraces a sonic sparsity at every turn – be it in the repeated couplet of ‘I Never Learnt to Share’, in the minimalist bass of his seductive Feist cover ‘Limit to Your Love’, or on ‘Lindisfarne I’ and ‘II’ where his vocoder vocal warping recalls Imogen Heap. ‘Give Me My Month’ and ‘Why Don’t You Call Me?’ do away with beats entirely, standing alone as fragile, ghostly piano ballads Antony Hegarty would be proud to call his own. Blake’s musical lineage is disparate, but there’s a confidence to his songwriting that pulls this collection together. Like The XX, whose success has surely paved the way, Blake understands there’s innovation and a peculiar power in paring back.

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