Were someone to have told me that the young Dubstep producer from London I first read about mid 2010, would be subject of the sheer volume of journalism he is today, i would barely have believed them. The attenuation of ‘I Only Know (What I Know Now’) broke and spluttered around my musical perception, one line of vocal beauty, deeply buried amongst production value and soulful backing. For me (even after the release of the CMYK EP and debut, ‘James Blake’) this remains Blake at his best; hopeless, splintered, delicate.
Rarely does an artist emerge to the acclaim Blake has received- and even more rarely does an artist channel it with such humility. An intense yet appreciative young musician, the Londoner deals tentatively with interviews, his speech unable quite to define the undefinable music he creates. In some ways, this limited translation reflects the knew LP; more beautiful in concept than in fruition. The songwriter within Blake is evident, yet the production, which is in many places gorgeous, lacks the maturity displayed in the rest of the presentation. Example being the heavy panning vocals in one of my personal favourite tracks- ‘The Wilhelm Scream’. As opposed to the intense live session for BBC Radio 6 music, the album mix looses one of Blake’s best assets, the illusive diction of his acoustic voice.
This is however heartening for the keyboard based musician- the BBC sessions demonstrating a profound capacity for live performance which other synth grounded artists cannot adhere to. Numerous DJ sets and an impressive craft of sound quality swell his performance; composure and dignity surpassing the beat bopping synth playing bands of the Passion Pit ilk. Unlike the blazing lead riffs of the aforementioned, Blake works in refined melody, and in many cases to great effect. Subtlety can often be overlooked amongst buttons to be pressed and knobs to be turned.
Late in the naughties saw the re-emergence of Dubstep as a relevant genre, ‘the drop’ returning to clubs, ipods and Radio 1 alike. Most modern exponents are as gratuitous as the genre’s South East London birth. From a B-side by The Prodigy in the early nineties, grew the phenomenon, and from there its development has been stark. Yet to brand Blake’s expansive musical style Dubstep is both generous to the genre and a discredit to the artist. The most fundamentally Dub track being the Feist cover, ‘Limit to your love’– his first marketable single and the track earning him the position he now inhabits. Were these new found fans to be played ‘Why Don’t You Call Me?’ , would their interest be so held? Unfortunately the yields of instant gratification are not enough to satisfy the masses, and this causes me great shame as it is in these subtler moments, of which his debut contains many, that Blake excels furthest.
In the manner in which Burial once captured a similar audience, Blake is the electronic melody maker of this young decade. His songwriting ability should be compared with modern greats, his production style the only difference between himself and the revered acoustic writers. Buried under all the hype and white noise, are the most brilliant songs, deserving of any acclaim they may receive.