x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

James Blake: Overgrown

James Blake's new album, Overgrown, is mostly excellent and occassionally sublime.

James Blake's Overgrown.
James Blake's Overgrown.

James Blake
Overgrown
(Republic)
****

Widely acclaimed for his eponymous 2011 debut, the young Londoner James Blake forged an accessible new avant-pop sound by blending the cutting-edge electronic minimalism of dubstep with the introspective bleating of a late-night singer-songwriter. His skeletal electro-soul ballads proved too tastefully tepid for some critics, but the 24-year-old’s second album is a much richer experimental journey, pushing the sonic limits of his effects-heavy studio technique. Blake’s tremulous sobs can feel absurdly contrived in places. But when they touch a nerve, the effect can be utterly mesmerising. Overgrown does not dispense entirely with whimpering self-pity, notably on the slow-building title track. But Retrograde and Voyeur lift the mood, nodding towards club music with their siren-driven grooves, handclap beats and cowbell chimes. The ambient pioneer Brian Eno’s contribution Digital Lion works well, wrapping Blake’s fragile falsetto in an immersive fog of warm drones and fluttering butterfly percussion. Mostly excellent, and occasionally -sublime.

artslife@thenational.ae

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