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“… two of the album’s unique components: an intriguing play with silence and—the most striking of the two—Blake’s own vocals.”
As the release date of James Blake’s self-titled debut crept up on his expanding fanbase, it seemed hard to know what to expect. During 2010, the sound wizard from London had taken his art in a few directions on three separate EP’s — piano ambience on Klavierwerke, morphed R&B on the more lush CMYK or screwed, dancefloor-oriented stuff on The Bells Sketch.
In a way it seems Blake has dared to go further with his influences on the album. The gospel flavour on last year’s ‘Postpone’—presented then as a peripheral, sampled choir—gets a fuller treatment on the closing ‘Measurements’, a title telling of its composer’s calibrated approach to production. The closer also contains two of the album’s unique components: an intriguing play with silence and—the most striking of the two—his own vocals. But there is plenty to hear before we get to the last track.
That the album cuts on here would be audio porn was expected, but it’s nice that Blake’s mastery on the boards is not undermined on the more radio-friendly songs ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ (which is originally by his dad) and ‘Limit to Your Love’. On these, as on ‘I Never Learnt to Share’, the repetitive lyrics sound much like a self-help book, but that is also the point: to Blake, these are not repeated sentences, but sound, and on this album, you’ll never hear the same audio wave twice. We hear that he “doesn’t blame” his siblings for not speaking to him a total of about 30 times, but upon each mention the audio has a layer, effect or emotional intensity different from the last. At the raunchy dubstep crescendo, the beat suggests that he might in fact blame them; that the words are nothing but sound.
And when Lindisfarne I transitions into Lindisfarne II — which in practice means the addition of some light keyboard taps and acoustic guitar to Blake’s barely discernible, robotic and brilliant vocals about flying somewhere, but not too high — I am once again reminded to pay less innovative music little mind.