Release Date: Oct 18, 2011
Record label: A&M
A bevy of critics over the last year have pointed out that James Blake’s, “...ability to write songs isn’t as fully formed as is his compositional ability.” His new EP Enough Thunder is an encouraging response to this sentiment from an artist who is willing to take risks, expanding towards these weaknesses, while still playing to his strengths. Enough Thunder consists of four originals, a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You”, and a collaboration with Bon Iver on “Fall Creek Boys Choir”. Blake provides the instrumentation, vocals, production, and writing of the four original tracks.
When James Blake swanned into the singer-songwriter market this February, naked from the waist down and having a little cry about it, the ensuing commotion said everything and nothing we needed to hear. We knew, of course, the snippets of quasi-wisdom blurted out weren’t particularly big or clever. (This chap even went to the trouble of decrying the entire DiS website over Noel Gardner’s 5/10 review, despite admitting to not having read it.) And yet if one Twitter feed wasn’t spewing forth streams of inconsequential knee-jerk aggro, then you’d be willing to bet another would be wanking lyrical over that self-titled debut in double measure.
On Enough Thunder, James Blake strips back the effects board and quivering bass for a surprisingly sparse effort, taking on the role of balladeer and even covering Joni Mitchell on his way to an effort that’ll divide the droves of fans he’s won over since the release of his self-titled debut earlier this year. It’s an intriguing move: in the short time since his debut, he’s more or less become a poster boy to dubstep’s stateside invasion by an audience perhaps too eager to put a face to a name. More importantly though, the acclaimed LP was most celebrated for stretching the conventions of bass music and dubstep to fit Blake’s warped take on singer-songwriter folk, with nearly all of its high points – the pop-up bass rumble of “Limit to Your Love” and “I Never Learnt to Share”‘s manic breakdown, being its bassiest.
What makes James Blake's music so terrific, when it works, is that he’s able to combine two opposite worlds so flawlessly that it feels effortless. As a classically trained pianist who also studied pop music in college, this dude now operates in dubstep. And what separates him as one of the leading artists in the genre stems directly from his background: He understands what makes a melody work.
On James Blake’s widely adored self-titled debut, the UK-based electro-soulster made a weighty impression with weightlessness. His best tracks, like the transcendent synth symphony “The Wilhelm Scream,” were quiet, aching expanses: Every programmed handclap and fragmented vocal loop struck straight to the gut, and the insular wunderkind rarely seemed in a rush. It was an unexpected—and totally gorgeous—album, and even through its chopped-up, mechanical dizzy spells, it felt strangely personal, like listening into an artful therapy session recorded on an iPad.
The centrepiece of this six-track EP by London-based producer/singer/songwriter James Blake is an effete, fluttering cover of Joni Mitchell's A Case Of You, sung to piano accompaniment. Because the 22-year-old is best known for his cerebral, dubstep-inflected minimalist aesthetic, the song is noteworthy for its straightforward acoustic sound but otherwise limpid and precious. There's a frustrating dichotomy at work in Blake's music.