The Good: Another article I read regarding this album mentioned how James Blake is one of the few artists capable of using the space in electronic music to sound like a void. There wasn’t much spoken on this more than a simple sentence, but it is certainly true. Artists like Todd Terje maybe capable of using the keys to make a colorful dance record without vocals and any house track maybe able to do the same with vocals, but Blake knows how to take from the Ambient side of the electronic industry to make electronic music far more emotional than a lot of other artists out there. His first LP was a hit, but was more a hint of what was to come. Often songs on that LP were too repetitive. It lacked the ambience as well. The last album, with its cover art to engage the feeling of its tracks, was as empty and introspective emotionally as a winter’s day. The dark neon drenched keyboard sounds were eery as if Blake’s insights came alongside a blaring siren calling over a silent snow-drenched and abandoned soviet industrial sector. What emerged was a more interesting artist, capable of using his style of repeating sentences with a soulful voice in order to play with how certain english words can be said different ways in order to hit emotional tones.
This album follows in the footsteps of that entourage. However, unlike its wintry older brother, this LP sounds more like a stride through a damp spring woodland. Again, the album cover does the sound of these tracks justice. Still there is the usage of repeating lines in his unique mesmerizing voice. However, there is more usage of straight piano mixed with electronic keys. Perhaps the best tracks are where the old fashioned piano takes the lead, especially on “Love Me In Whatever Way”. “My Willing Heart”, or especially th absolute beautiful “f.o.r.e.v.e.r”. Music in the past few years has lost some of the emptiness and loneliness that the folk movement at the beginning of the decade so cleverly used. Blake’s usage of space on these tracks keeps this technique alive. It’s interesting that Bon Iver was chosen as a partner on “I Need A Forest Fire”, an artist’s whose second LP improved on its predecessor by taking on keyboards. In fact, I would love to see these two come together more often. They are two artists using space in basically the same way, however from different angles of the music community.
The Bad: I would rather this album end on “Always” rather than “Meet You In The Maze”. “Always” has such a brilliant escalade and drop to silence while the latter song makes me feel Blake had got a little carried away with the beauty of his voice that he believed singing without any instruments would remain interesting.
Would I Listen Again: Definitely