James Blake

The Groove Seeker: James Blake

On a weekly basis, The Groove Seeker goes in search of killer grooves across rock, funk, hip hop, soul, electronic music, jazz, fusion, and more.

James Blake: James Blake (Atlas Records, 2/7/11)

James Blake: “The Wilhelm Scream”

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After gaining significant attention in 2010 with three EPs — The Bells Sketch, CMYK, and Klavierwerke — London-based electronic producer James Blake is releasing his self-titled full-length on Atlas Records.  The EPs established Blake as a new go-to producer, whose soul-noir brand of dubstep has surprised many with its low-energy beats and restrained, ultramodern approach.  Blake’s music is a staggering, spacious collage of R&B and nu-soul samples suspended over deep drum kits, skittering glitch pulses, and highly saturated vocals.

But with so many musicians following the same avant-garde, cut-and-paste approach, Blake’s earlier music doesn’t so much break barriers as it tests fertile grounds.  Though the EPs contain danceable grooves and imaginative arrangements, they remain stamp-less, sounding like the supplementary material to an experimental music seminar on producing and remixing beats.

“Limit to Your Love,” the first single to his upcoming album, covers Feist, reducing the original to its simple piano phrase with a tension that lies somewhere between nerve-biting silence and wall-shaking bass.  But more importantly, the song reveals a voice capable of channeling the faint intimacy of Bon Iver and the soulful croon of Bill Withers.  It’s a warm vocal style that is crucial in realizing Blake’s appeal.