Impeccable Writing: Will Sellers, Design: Jesse Codling
It seems to be happening with less frequency these days, but every once in a while an artist and a new album of their's will come along that sounds so utterly original and transfixing, that every other artistic venture you come across while addicted to this new sound is virtually ignored, leaving you alone with the new album for a week or two (maybe longer).
For Young Moderns senior writer Will Sellers has an addiction he's very happy to have suddenly take over his life: listening to James Blake's forthcoming self-titled debut album (out February 7 on Atlas/A&M Records) on repeat. The British Blake has quickly built a reputation on being a top minimalist dubstep producer in London via a series of very highly regarded EPs released throughout 2010.
The minimal, spastic electronic beats that defined his 2010 dubstep EPs are still present, but on his debut, his surprisingly soulful and wounded-sounding voice takes center stage. Despite it being such a tantalizingly original piece of work, there are some very familiar elements about James Blake that helps it be immediately accessible. The album borrows elements from a wide range of genres, from dubstep to blue eyed soul to piano balladry to even a hint of gospel melodies on closing track "Measurements". Blake's backing music is so delicate that it sometimes can come to complete silence for several beats, reminiscent of fellow Londoners The xx's hushed sound. On "Lindesfarne I", Blake strips himself down to just vocoder-assisted vocals on a track very reminiscent of Bon Iver's "Woods" (famously sampled on Kanye West's "Lost in the World") while manipulated acoustic guitar and additional vocoder on subsequent track "Lindesfarne II" recall another great Bon Iver track, "Flume".
These familiarities, coupled with some beautifully melancholy melodies and just enough weirdness all around may keep you feverishly hooked on this album for a long while. Everything comes together perhaps no better than on the album's first two tracks, "Unluck" and "The Wilhelm Scream" where melodic repetition is used along with a musical build-up that ends with huge climaxes on each song. Check out the dreamy video for "The Wilhelm Scream" below: