Tuesday, February 12, 2013

TRACK: James Blake - "Retrograde"

Recommended by Danny Spiteri.

British artist James Blake, who doubles as a singer-songwriter and electronic producer, has turned quite a few heads throughout the past few years, most notably with a trio of excellent EPs in 2010, and a promising self-titled debut LP in 2011. He had a relatively quiet year in 2012, but the young talent is back with a new single and an album announcement. The former is titled "Retrograde," and will appear on Blake's sophomore record, Overgrown, which will see its release on April 8. Below, watch the disastrous video for the aforementioned single.

James Blake has already released a wealth of fantastic material, but perhaps his most fascinating aspect is that his music still sounds as if it has more to figure out about itself, indicating that a more developed future is in line. The CMYK, Klavierwerke, and, to a slightly lesser extent, The Bells Sketch EPs that came out in 2010 represented fully realized visions of a future garage producer, one who had his own distinct and rewarding take on the genre, but ultimately was still working within its confines. James Blake marked a major shift for the artist, bringing the vocal contributions which colored Klavierwerke to the forefront, and incorporating a heavy piano-driven singer-songwriter element, but all without abandoning the prominent electronic influence. It was a refreshing sound that came with many high payoffs, but also some undercooked moments which implied that Blake hadn't yet reached his apex. The album's most successful moments were those which saw him singing well-written songs over linearly building electronic production, such as "I Never Learnt to Share" or James Litherland cover "The Wilhelm Scream." Hopes for more tracks of this format were fulfilled with the release of "Retrograde," the lead single from Blake's next full-length offering. The singer delivers one of his most soulful performances yet, carrying out his lyrically minimal yet impacting lines with an earnest air. The vocals work in tight cohesion with the production; at possibly the track's most emotionally resonant moment, when Blake sings "suddenly I'm hit," the instrumentation explodes with a euphoric blast of buzzing synthesizers. These synths build steadily as the song progresses, lending it the sense of movement that marks his best material. It is among the finest demonstrations of the success Blake can reach when he channels each of his most noteworthy skills.

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