October 5, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 50°F


Review: Post-dubstep artist branches out with new album

Over the past three years, English post-dubstep artist and producer James Blake has made quite a name for himself. The young Brit’s take on soul-infused electronica has kept fans waiting with bated breath for the next taste of new material. Blake’s second album, “Overgrown,” reverts to his tried-and-true sound, but he also mixes in a more melodic sensibility than was seen on his eponymous debut.

With his self-titled first effort, Blake relied almost exclusively on languid, sustained instrumentals to create a feeling of suspense and limbo. By doing this, his vocals were allowed to shine through with only minimal instrumental interference. On “Overgrown,” Blake stirs the pot a bit and gets things percolating.

Blake’s new tracks feature both looping and evolving elements that remove the previous sense of limbo and substitute that feeling with gradual progressions throughout the album. “Overgrown’s” primary single, “Retrograde,” creeps in with a simple pairing of piano and Blake’s powerful vocals. Where he may have let the song plateau in his previous work, Blake instead thrusts the track forward with layered instrumentals and intensified vocal vibrato.

“Overgrown” also shows Blake stepping out of his traditional mold and teaming up with Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA. “Take A Fall For Me” sounds as though it could be more of a song by R&B artist The Weeknd rather than a James Blake song. Blake displays his ability to fit his style to various other genres by combining his atmospheric electronica with an established rapper for a song that can only be categorized as a win.

Blake proves he’s not done tinkering with his sound. One critically acclaimed album and a growing following is not enough at this point. He continues to measure and re-measure the sonic ingredients to make everything perfect. “Overgrown” attests to the fact that he is getting close.

3 stars