James Blake - Overgrown
James Blake’s latest release, Overgrown, cements his place at the forefront of marketable post-dub; Just enough minimalism (oxymoronZ), just enough catchy vocal lines and off-beat beats. Overgrown is the logical progression for the English producer, it’s an effort which is distinctly him, yet somehow adds onto his signature sound. The album covers all bases, with exclusively piano based tracks like ‘DLM’, beat tracks such as ‘Voyeur’ and for want of a better word, a couple great singles. Not singles as in “tracks off the album to be released on MTV” but tracks which strengthen the body of the album and split the tracks at each end of the spectrum with ones which bring everything to the front and have a little energy about them. Without these, Overgrown would still be critically acclaimed but Blake would run the risk of boring the listener with too much of one thing in each song every time. Too much of a great thing is still too much.
The way the album as a whole is constructed is the key to it’s success. By scattering and varying the main driving force between each track, whether it be drums, hums or keys, Overgrown is simply un-skip-able, repeatable and a refreshing change from minimalist producers being too caught up in their own niche subtleties.
The album starts out with the titular track, and sets the tone for what’s to come. ‘Overgrown’ is a track you will keep on singing later on in the day. “Time passes in the constant state, So if that is how it is” is just one of the many memorable vocal lines on the track, which glide melodically over a delightful up-beat drum track, soft keys and slowly building high pitched synth sending the track into a climax before it’s slow ending. Lead single ‘Retrograde’ is another one of the better tracks which combine the many elements of Mr. Blake. The track originally came to him through the hummed tune, before he added the beats and claps to it and really developed it into one of his strongest tracks to date. Starting off with swirling hum, the track slowly builds with slow beat, all the while slowly building into a full strength synth overdive towards mid-track. It’s the best song on the album, and is definitely the one to show to your (shitty) friends who don’t like James Blake.
Notable mentions include ‘Digital Lion’, one of the more bass heavy tracks with what sounds like a chugging bass line, a track which grows out of minimalism into some more exciting territory and produces an exciting soundscape, probably due to the presence of Brian Eno on the track.‘Take a Fall For Me’ is also a great track which features The RZA (of Wu-Tang fame) rapping a verse over some more subtle repeated keys, with some static thrown in for good measure. This is an interesting track which builds beautifully through the addition of some interesting ‘gremlin-like’ overlayed vocals emphasising the key themes presented in the lyrics.
Overgrown is a fantastic follow up to his self-tited
debut, indicating a slight change in direction from his usual electro-soul to a
more diverse sound, weaving between his signature beats as was well as some
more front and centre electronic influences.
8.5 out of 10