Shuffle | James Blake
by Joshua P. Ferguson
The James Blake hype machine is grinding away at full speed in anticipation of the British bass-crooner's sophomore effort, Overgrown, which is due out on April 8. We've been content to keep "Retrograde" on a continuous loop since it was released as the LP's lead single earlier this month—better that than a 10-hour loop of the recent 15-second Daft Punk snippet, anyway. Then, the mellow-cool crossover titan snuck back out with two new bits from the record, including a collaboration with electronic-music legend Brian Eno. All is enough to send the rest of the indie-music blogosphere racing to their lappies to share the good news, so we took the backseat until we spotted a 15-min video preview of his entire record, and we thought, what the hell, let's get in on the action. Then we discovered that it was pulled off the Web by Blake's record label about two hours prior to penning this post. Whomp. Here are the other cuts anyway—with our two cents on each included free of charge.
"Digital Lion," Blake's next single, which looks to already be available in the U.K., is sure to satisfy fans of the producer's earlier work. Less a singer-songwriter affair than much of the material on Blake's self-titled debut album, here we see the two sides married as a vocal tapestry of hums and coos gets stitched together with help from ambient pioneer Brian Eno, while tough—for Blake anyway—dubwise beats clamor underneath.
On "Voyeur (dub)," which featured on a recent installment of Benji B's BBC show, Blake continues to push a more rhythmic club interpretation of his otherwise introspective sound, with deep sub-bass, the clang of cowbell, and spiraling synth lines. A drama that ratchets up via an epic dissonant chord crescendo eventually releases us into a barren breakdown and sets the stage for a final third that proves Blake is just as adept at crafting hypnotic, tension-building techno as he is delicate chill-out scapes.