Published on March 7th, 2019 | by voxx0
James Blake – Assume Form
The late critic Mark Fisher once noted that James Blake’s transition from post-dubstep producer to contemporary singer-songwriter was “like hearing a ghost gradually assume material form”. Blake has certainly come a long way from the spectral tones of his eponymous debut and this first album since his move to Los Angeles, following 2016’s fractured The Colour In Anything, sees a different character come into focus. Out goes the tremulous choirboy and in comes the A-list collaborator recently sought out by Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar.
The result is a revelation. On the title track, with its intoxicating mix of orchestral strings and subtle electronica, even Blake sounds slightly startled as he sings about his new “touchable… reachable” presence. It’s as if he’s been set free to fully explore his own abilities, conjuring hauntingly beautiful melodies that touch on vintage Hollywood scores, Laurel Canyon’s sunkissed folk and contemporary hip-hop. He also leverages his expanded contacts list, trap producer Metro Boomin and Travis Scott featuring on the woozy, late-night ‘Mile High’ and André 3000 weaving a virtuoso verse through the adrenal techno pulse of ‘Where’s the Catch?’.
Yet it’s still Blake’s reflective character that shapes the mood. Unsurprisingly, for someone who’s talked candidly about depression, there’s plenty going on beneath the surface. So while ‘Can’t Believe The Way We Flow’ captures the heady rush of new love, ‘Power On’ is riven by unresolved emotions and a turbulent synth riff. He may not have stepped totally outside his discomfort zone, but Blake here reveals himself as an artist at the peak of his powers.
- By Jake White