Courtesy of the artist
James Blake's self-titled debut LP is set to be released on Feb. 7.
James Blake's self-titled debut LP is set to be released on Feb. 7. Courtesy of the artist
An inventive musician who combines electronic tool-kits with his soul-flooded voice, James Blake is poised to flip the electronic world on its head in 2011. In 2010, Blake released three excellent EPs: The Bells Sketch, CMYK and Klavierwerke. Listening to these records and a handful of his remixes of tracks by Mount Kimbie and Untold, I could hear that Blake was a gifted producer, but his single "Limit to Your Love" offered a glimpse at a rarer talent. His self-titled full-length comes out on Feb. 7.
Blake's production is rooted in dubstep and often uses a slow, 70 beats-per-minute tempo, syncopated rhythms and vocal samples from '90s R&B ("CMYK" samples one of my favorite tracks from Aaliyah, "Are You That Somebody"). What sets Blake aside from many dubstep producers, however, is his weathered croon — he's only 22, but his voice carries a maturity usually found in grizzled veterans. Its impact is compounded by fearless patience; Blake generously uses space and silence in his works, a stark contrast from the raw timbre of his layered vocals. Blake takes the soulful sounds that dubstep producers have typically sampled, and instead lets his voice speak for itself. The impact is immediate and astonishing.