jamesblake

The pressure to follow a record as idiosyncratic and perfectly-formed as Blake’s 2011 debut has been sidstepped in ‘Overgrown’, another unqualified triumph for the Londoner. Compositionally, Blake bolsters his ranks considerably, stretching his already extensive spectrum at both ends with a collection of songs that embed his most sumptuous pop hooks within sounds that function as some of his most wilfully avant garde. The desolate, arpeggiated RnB of ‘Life Round Here’, for example, takes inspiration from the late ’90s mainstream before metamorphosing into something more disconcerting; contorting its melodies and dialling up its synthesised aggression, all the while remaining tethered to its pop core with a strong centripetal force. The strobing house of ‘Voyeur’ also sees Blake experiment with out-and-out dance, while RZA’s cameo on ‘Take A Fall For Me’ dips into leftfield hip hop. There are more overt love songs this time (‘Retrograde’, ‘To The Last’, ‘Our Love Comes Back’), as well as an overall warmth of sound – the off-kilter piano of ‘DLM’, for example, showcases an astonishing ability to tease out the organic sounds of a room with Cagean deftness. It’s tempting to say that this is a headphones album, but that would be reductive; regardless of context, Blake’s intricate, layered achievement is remarkable.

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