I’ve been meaning to write this review for a long time. I covered James Blake’s self-titled album for Positive Feedback last year (link HERE) and it was a sincere pleasure hearing something that fresh. It’s sparse, darkly tinted soundscapes are wide-open and airy. Blake’s vocals are so unique, the timbre of his voice is unike any I’ve heard. What a precious thing, finding an artist that sounds new! It was also difficult to quantify his album. That was part of its mystique. Many called it dubstep, some drum-n-bass, some refused to try and encapsulate it. I sometimes think of the full album as our generations electronic Donny Hathaway. Now, before you get all Hathaway-devotee on my ass, know that I’m not trying to compare Blake’s songwriting and performing abilities to the pure genuis that was Donny Hathaway. I just found great similarity in their use of space to convey emotion, and minimalism in composition, which lends itself to contemplative listening. I can picture them performing together in an experimental album if Hathaway were still around and able to perform. What a pairing that would be.
The coolest thing about the vinyl here: The 10″ one-sided single of Blake’s “Limit to Your Love” on Atlas, is the fact that all those liquid-like acid basslines and spacial qualities that made the album so haunting and engaging just pop with greater velocity and fluidity. The oscillating Roland TB-303 bassline (at least I’ve read that’s the analog synth that was used to create it) just oozes through the speakers like a rippling sonic waveform. The piano also comes to the front, and while there are only a few notes here, the roundness and weight of their sound packs a deeper emotional punch than on the CD. Blake’s vocals are also a bit more nasally, as I try to invent words to describe the twisted timbre of his delivery. It’s a voice you won’t soon forget.
This 10″ is an eargasm, pure and simple. I wish I could afford to buy 50 of them and give them out for the holidays to my fellow analog-loving friends. This is going to stay on my audio acid test list for a long time. I get just as excited when I hear this track on vinyl as I did when I first heard the album on CD. It’s chilling and warm at times; spacious and cold. Be warned however: The bass on this disc will test the very foundation of your system’s low-end capabilities. If your system is tuned-up properly you’re in for a warbling, bending, ocean of low-end information. Blake’s carved out a little sonic niche for himself. I hope to continue to hear alot more from him over the years. If he sticks to this path I can’t wait to hear the wild tunes he’ll be composing in twenty years.