Album Review: James Blake – Overgrown

Singer –songwriter. Dubstep producer. Genre deconstructionist. All of these terms sum up James Blake, the 23-year-old musician from London who is blurring the lines of musical genres. His 2011 debut LP James Blake received the ranking of Best New Music from Pitchfork, and made a splash in the electronic music scene. It was a tough act to follow, but Overgrown, released on Republic Records, proves to be a strong sophomore release.

The album opens with the title track “Overgrown”, a hauntingly mellow and ethereal piece. Beginning with just Blake’s vocals and sparse piano accompaniment, it builds into a heavily textured catharsis, vaguely reminiscent of the work of Thom Yorke.

From track to track the album swells and bursts with explosive emotion between moments of hollow and ghostly sounds. Blake retains his dubstep influence with the persistent snare percussion and fluttering, sometimes nearly inaudible, bass lines. He overlays the arrangements with vocal melodies that sound as if R&B and Gospel have been broken down and pieced together again into one.

Despite the melancholy overtones of the record, Blake demonstrates to his listeners that he knows how to make you move. “Voyeur” brims with layers of looped vocals, electronic arpeggios, and a thumping beat that transport you to a dance hall. The nearly chaotic track stands apart from the rest of the album, while seamlessly fitting right in.

Written, performed, recorded, and produced by Blake, Overgrown is an impressive display of a one-man show. It is in part a departure from his debut LP, but the record offers a myriad of influences that culminate in the heartbreak of a singer-songwriter meeting the electronic era.

Listening through the record will swing you back and forth from energetic elation to a soothing relaxed state. Overgrown holds its own in Blake’s reexamination of the electronic genres, and is definitely worth your time.

James Blake – Overgrown

 

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