James Blake – Overgrown James Blake – Overgrown

blakeIt would quickly become difficult to remember, after James Blake‘s cover of Feist’s ‘Limit To Your Love,’ that the then 22-year-old Londoner had once been tipped as one of dubstep’s rising talents. In the space of a few years the up-and-coming producer had seemingly diverted off the path that he had set for himself; the blog hype surrounding those early, glitchy club singles like ‘CMYK’ and ‘Air and Lack Thereof’ was soon replaced with an altogether stranger phenomenon – commercial (and critical) success. People loved his eponymous LP: loved the cover, and loved Blake’s classically-trained take on “post-dubstep.” The Joni Mitchell covers and Bon Iver collaborations that were to follow seemed almost like formalities in a story that had already been written for an artist sent from on high to appeal to both hardcore music nerds and Radio 2 listeners alike.

Things might not have felt quite so predictable, however, had Overgrown appeared as Blake’s first LP proper instead of his frustratingly scattershot self-titled debut. Whilst there are still moments on this record which are as forgettable as some on his previous works, they are at least in the minority, and overall Overgrown comes across as a much more confident and fully-realised body of work – and one which hints at what all the fuss may have been about in the first place.

That confidence is evident from the outset, with Blake declaring in the opening title track, “I don’t want to be a star/or a stone on the shore” while the song unravels around a taut hi-hat and bold waves of sub-bass. It’s one of several instances on the LP where Blake’s singer-songwriter shtick and post-dubstep-wizard persona are in perfect harmony, and it’s in such cases that Overgrown really is an intriguing listen. Step forward to ‘Retrograde,’ surely Blake’s best hope of ditching the ‘Limit To Your Love’ albatross. Effortlessly cool neo-soul is all well and good when it’s a cover of someone else’s song, but on ‘Retrograde’ Blake nails a hit all of his own. The goosebumps moment comes just as he delivers the chilling “We’re alone now” in a vocal register that would surely make Barry White uncomfortable. The soulful falsetto that bookends the track and familiar synth klaxons at the apex make it the album’s standout.

Lyrically, Blake has also taken a step closer in the direction of his idols with some wonderfully half-cryptic snippets throughout. ‘Dlm”s refrain of “Please don’t let me hurt you more” would make Joni Mitchell herself proud, whilst Blake’s soulful lamentations on urban life on ‘Life Round Here’ paint an altogether seedier picture, “Part time love is life round here/We’re never done”.

That said, there are still cases where Blake’s singer-songwriter style and electronic instrumentation make for decidedly awkward bedfellows. His impassioned bleats of “You can’t marry her yet” on ‘Take A Fall For Me’ come across as just downright odd when placed next to RZA’s anglophile raps about “old stout” and “fish and chips with the vinegar.” Thankfully, it stands as an obscure anomaly on an album that finds Blake’s sound no less divided- but no longer confused.

Overgrown Tracklist:

01. Overgrown
02. I Am Sold
03. Life Around Here
04. Take A Fall For Me
05. Retrograde
06. DLM
07. Digital Lion
08. Voyeur
09. To The last
10. Our Love Comes Back

James Blake - Overgrown, reviewed by Lemon on 2013-05-01T07:41:45+00:00 rating 3.6 out of 5



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