Guest Review: Bowden On Blake
LYDIA BOWDEN, EYEWEAR MUSIC CRITIC ON THE NEW JAMES BLAKE
James Blake has fallen in love. It’s true. I found this out after I had my first listen to his second album Overgrown. Blake has recently admitted that he knew nothing about music before he met his new love, who is in fact, Theresa Wayman, singer and guitarist in American band Warpaint. In comparison to his self titled first album, which hints his earlier work with dub-step, has a haunting vocal at the forefront, all with a mixture of bleeps and hums, this second album is somewhat more soothing, with less of a kick. And it’s obvious that something in his music has changed. I guess love can have that affect.
People have been very excited about this album. After his big entrance to the DJ music scene, his music was soon playing on all popular radio stations and loved by every pop music lover out there. People loved what they heard, it was fresh and spooky, a sound that made you feel dreamy. I found his music to be trancelike, especially after standing front row at one of his gigs in KOKO, London. I caught glimpses of people around me, eyes tight shut, all of us connecting through the vibrating floor boards as a result of way-too-deep notes that Blake filled the room with. His music adapts to any situation too; at a gig, walking through busy streets and train journeys. But it always gives us that same thought-provoking effect that we love his music for.
When I came to listen to Overgrown, I was only half satisfied. Many of the album’s songs just blend together, and there’s the odd one-off that catches you by surprise like, ‘Take a Fall For Me’ which features American rapper RZA. You can tell Blake is in love, it’s evident in a few of the lyrics. ‘We’re going to the last, you and I’ and ‘Ignore everyone else, we’re alone now’, which features in ‘Retrograde’. I will say this though, ‘Retrograde’ is a stunning piece of music, full of deeply emotional hums and it actually makes the climax, unlike some of the others.
Blake has said his first album lacked something, but I think it’s the other way around, it’s Overgrown that’s lacking. It’s hard to create an album that tops the first. As an audience we have high- very high- expectations for an artist that impressed us so much at the beginning. The xx tried and failed last year. However, I have faith in Blake, and I’m pretty confident the more I listen to Overgrown the more I will, ever so slightly fall in love with it.
Bowden is a BA student in her final months at Kingston University, and a writer and editor, as well as Eyewear's sometime music critic. She blogs here: thebowd.wordpress.com