Figuring highly in BBC’s Sound Of 2011 might be considered to be a dubious honour but no one could accuse of James Blake of lacking imagination or orginality. Informed by dubstep, soul and experimental electronica, this is an addictive debut which lives up to the hype.
Underneath the sonic trickery the songs are effectively a showcase for a soul singer and Blake is pretty good at performing that role too. It’s most evident on the simpler material such as ‘Give Me My Month’ or his cover of Leslie Feist’s ‘Limit To Your Love’, which sounds like an updated version of the 1990’s trip-hop sound. ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ is intimate and romantic; not unlike lost hits from the 1980’s such as David Cassidy’s ‘The Last Kiss’, for example. That is until the layers of static and shuddering beats gradually descend upon the underlying melody. As an indication of his versatility, ‘Never Learnt To Share’ builds from a fragile vocal in to a baroque club anthem whilst album closer ‘Measurements’ even pulls off gospel music with some panache.
With all the sonic trickery at his disposal, Blake never forgets the core of the song and each of the tracks radiate equal shades of invention and warmth. BBC predictions aside, James Blake could be the sound of future years too.