James Blake – Overgrown


Post-dubstep is a somewhat nebulous label that has been applied to sounds as disparate as brostep to revivalist UK garage. Yet I feel it best applied to the work of an artist like James Blake, who infuses the rudiments of classic dubstep’s sound (a half-timed tempo, extreme sub-bass heavy mixes, dramatic uses of pauses and drops) with his own musical influences. In Blake’s case, his biggest influences outside the world of “traditional” ‘06-‘08 dubsep are ‘60s soul, ‘90s R & B, gospel music, Berlin-techno, and confessional singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. Those sonic hallmarks can be found layered all across his latest album, Overgrown. While I enjoyed Blake’s earliest EPs for the R&S label, his self-titled LP left me wanting. I felt it lacked the vitality of his earlier work. To put it crudely, I found it boring. That is not at all the case with Overgrown. On his latest outing Blake distils and arranges his multiplicity of influences into a smooth, sexy, and exciting kaleidoscopic whole. It is truly of remarkable construction. There are several firsts for the artist on this album, including “Take a Fall for Me,” a glorious collaboration with RZA that has the producer trying his hand at post-Dilla beat work and succeeds wildly to my mind. Another first is his four-to-the-floor techno banger “Voyageur.” The track begins , as many of his do, with some of his trademark piano samples and vocal chops, only to build to a thumping neon-hued club tune that recalls London’s Night Slugs label. This album won me over in the best way possible. If you’re a fan of James Blake, or any of the sounds referenced herein, give it a listen, you might find yourself enthralled. (Republic, republicrecords.com) Alexandre Ilkkala-Boyer

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