James Blake “Limit To Your Love”

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.


Michael Mercer is a veteran reviewer of music and audio components. He got his start working for The Absolute Sound as a teenager and then made his way over to Atlantic Records, working with the legendary producer Arif Mardin. Considered one of the leading "crusaders for personal audio", Mercer can be found writing for many audio publications on the Internet.

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