This quite brilliant artist seems to improve release upon release. It would be a severe understatement to say James Blake has had a successful year to date, with flourishing well received EP's finding releases on Hessle Audio, Hemlock and the legendary Belgian label R&S records. 'Air & Lack Thereof' instantly notified taste makers that Blake would be huge, but such a quick rise could not have been foreseen. Looking back at this years releases, Blake mustered and already wonderful collection, and remarkably so in such a short space of time. 'Air & Lack Thereof/Sparing The Horses', 'The Bells Sketch' EP, 'CMYK' EP; each of these is a marker of Blake's unique brilliance. His sound is one which is previously unheard, a deep soulful dubstep sound in which Blake manages to implement his expertise in classical composition, particularly with his vocal and piano chord work.
'Klavierwerke' sets the haunting melancholic tone of the EP, one which has been recognised in Blake's past releases. Piano stabs punctuate a slow introduction but slowly fade away into darkness, accompanied by inserts of Blake's soft voice and distorted vocal wails. An intriguing drum beat and synth arrangement then arise, subtle and repetitive in manner, working up a haunting storm. More percussive layers are added to the complex stepping beat, most notably the smooth handclap sound which animates the foreground of the track along with a bubbling sub-bass and Blake's brilliant vocal clips. 'Tell Her Safe' is an altogether more upbeat track, beginning with Blake's lone deep distorted vocals. The beat is once again intricately produced, something that has become almost a signature of Blake's work. Synth organs take their place in the background of the tracked, nicely blurred by the strength of the tracks percussive elements as well as Blake's soulful vocals. Although not as strong as the beautifully haunting 'klavierwerke', 'Tell Her Safe' is a strong accompaniment.
If 'Klavierwerke' is the most haunting track from the EP then 'I Only Know (What Do I Know)' is undoubtedly the most melancholic. A fantastic piano arrangement, which enters in stages and has an ambient quality to its sound, begins proceedings along with soulful vocal murmurs creeping through the track as time progresses. The rum beat is slow, but so smooth and accompanies the melancholic mood perfectly, and element which is set so wonderfully by the heavily distorted wailing diva vocals. This isn't just beautiful for it's emotion, but the way in which Blake manipulates percussive elements results in the track forcing you to move or at least nod your head to the syncopated rhythm, which is created through the introduction of further percussive elements. The track provides a sense of thoughtful sadness, but one which also seems uplifting thanks to Blake's intelligent arrangements. 'Don't You Think I Do' is probably my least favourite track on the EP, although this probably does the track a disservice, and the fact that the track follows the excellent 'I Only Know' most certainly doesn't help its cause. If it hadn't ended up on such a strong EP, I'm sure the track would receive much more attention and praise. A single piano notes resonates, contrasted early on by a synth which follows on from each note. The syncopated beat soon enters, introducing a raw, hazy sound, something which is also contributed to by the reasonably dominant synth organ. Handclaps add further complexity to the tracks rhythm, whilst the single piano stab remains a distant component, fading slowly as the EP's melancholy remains constant, haunting yet full of promise. A beautifully produced work, one which surely cements Blake's reputation as one of the most promising producers around.
This is an essential listen, as is Blake's past releases. 'I Only Know' will have you nodding in a state of despair, something few producers can do. Preview and purchase the 'Klavierwerke' EP now by clicking here.
James Blake - Klavierwerke (128) by factmag