Sunday, 10 October 2010


With an extraordinary ability to induce soul and introspection through his music, 22 year old Londoner James Blake is fast making his unique mark under the ever-widening dubstep umbrella. Unlike the aggressive, machine-like whomps and screeches associated with popular dubstep artists, Blake has taken a more abstract approach. Though his tracks aren't without warbling bass and the usual hi-hat tittle-tattle, the emphasis is on sample experimentation, distorted vocals and contemporary melodies.

His love for hearing the recognizable excerpts of popular artists is demonstrated through tracks such as 'CMYK' where the vocals of Aaliyah, R Kelly and Brandy are cleverly manipulated. Blake's own interest in the R'n'B and Hip-Hop genres explain his reworkings of urban hits such as Destiny's Childs' – 'Bills, Bills, Bills' and Snoop Dogg's 'Drop It Like It's Hot' of which he releases under the psuedonym - Harmonix.

He incorporates a medley of micro-beats and irregular silences, sped up and slowed down sample vocals as well as chopped up sound-bites of his own Auto-Tuned vocals. Blake's voice, however, is in no need of Auto-Tuning. Is there anything this boy can't do? The rich, complexity of his tracks suggest years of production experience, not the two years he has been doing it since starting university. But it's his musical background that has stood him in good stead. Since the not-so-ripe-old-age of between 5 and 6, Blake has been singing and playing the piano, classically. As something which he did not appreciate at the time, classical music has been invaluable in shaping his overall style and ingenuity.

Understanding that vocals carry a certain amount of sentiment, Blake is able to return to what he describes as 'his calling' – being able to sing and play the piano. After totally immersing himself in electronica, stripping back to basics has to be quite a cathartic experience. More recently, Blake has emphasized the use of his own vocals. 'Limit To Your Love', originally by Feist, is an example garnering a huge amount of praise. It beautifully combines his vocal and musical ability with floods of passion and sincerity. The first quarter of the track is far removed from the usual broken sound bites and lurching melodies. His vocals take precedence and are wholly captivating. Then at around 55 seconds, a thundrous, reverberating bass provides the backdrop to his dulcet tones. It is exactly this contrast Blake finds beauty in.

With that in mind, Blake looks set to be releasing more material. With the success of 'The Bells Sketch' released on Hessle Audio, 'CMYK' and most recently - 'Klavierwerke’ on R&S earlier this year, it has never been more apparent that his distinctive branching out of the dubstep genre is permeating through to the masses. As well as further collaborations with Mount Kimbie on the cards, Blake also looks set to focus more on his magestic voice by recording a vocal album.

Boasting a sound so current yet totally unique, do not be surprised to hear the electronic masterpiece that is - James Blake, exploding through your radiowaves very soon!

Ellie Wilcox

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