James Blake – Overgrown

The quiet revolution’s crown prince speaks up

The quiet revolution’s crown prince speaks up, whittling down what you’d expect in the pre-release blurb – gaining nominations, wowing publications, stoking anticipations and principally handling sophomore expectations – into a simpler game of how a softly spoken, sensitively sharp musician sticks and twists. Still drifting in and out of post-dubstep interpretations and piano acoustics, Blake stretches an early, minimalist potency and beautiful lip-biting tension. Wiry and hollowed, but with a slowly flourishing, fuller fortitude – and without remonstration – there’s the courage of conviction to tame the twitchiness and elegance of suspicion around him.

‘Retrograde’ yearns to crawl back into its shell (or ice cavern) until it comes into contact with power lines, and a surprisingly effective appearance by Wu-Tang’s Rza, developing MF Doom anglophilia, lets the lament of ‘Take A Fall For Me’ circle digital drains. These are before ‘DLM’ goes back to one man and his piano and ‘Our Love Comes Back’ coos crib-side. Blake’s voice remains fascinatingly powerful in its frailty, forebodingly soulful despite its lack of colour (‘Life Round Here’ is the biggest clean-out of the vocal chords, zig-zagged by zealous synths a la ‘I Never Learnt To Share’). It’s as much a spike to the album’s ambience as ‘Digital Lion’ threatening its own secluded safety with on-the-run bass, and ‘Voyeur’ breaking into a tastemaker’s house groove to leave the applecart for dead.

Breakouts perhaps, yet ‘Overgrown’ remains closer knit, and paradoxically less fragmented than its illustrious predecessor, ideas rotating core values guided by an affirmatively unseen hand. Which ultimately makes this an even better record.



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