Overgrown... Herbage and foliage in the digital age
Review: James Blake – Overgrown
Published on April 12th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Welcome back to James Blake’s weird ‘n’ woozy world, now with extra beats! London’s foremost post-dubstep/nu-R&B/whatever star dazzled the senses with his spaced-out, quirkily manipulated, eponymous 2011 debut, not to mention a plethora of EPs such as that year’s enchanting Enough Thunder. Through plying that sound with a series of agreeably clunky, skittery and twitchy rhythm sections, he has again come up with the goods on Overgrown.
“I don’t want to be a star” declares Blake on the opening title track, but it’s much too late for that now. “Overgrown” wanders into a heaving synth string section while his voice doubles up and begins to overlap itself to wonderfully disorienting effect, and the ensuing “I Am Sold” weaves an almost Spirit of Eden-like state of entrancement with just a dusting of late-night jazz.
It gets even better: “Life Round Here” builds into a fizzing spiral of loopy synth, “Take a Fall for Me” is gloopy, intense and features RZA, while the manner in which “Retrograde” guides slow, clappy gospel-psych into sheer rapture is pretty darn noteworthy. For all that Blake’s music can sound unsettling, even foreboding, it’s how he extracts so much beauty out of it that marks him as a cut above, say, The xx; these compositions are meticulous, subtle and sophisticated without without ever letting any of that spill over into excessive archness.
The Brian Eno-produced “Digital Lion” might very well be the album’s standout track, although that notion faces a strong late challenge from the stunningly sparse seaside trip – that’s trip in the ‘lysergic’ rather than ‘holiday’ sense – of “To the Last”. After that, its left to “Our Love Comes Back” to bring the curtain down on another triumphant production with Blake wearily draping his voice over his piano like a velvet jacket.
In case there was any doubt, Overgrown confirms him as being very much one of those real deals that folks like to get so excited about.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!
Overgrown is out now on Universal Republic. For more information, please click here to visit the official James Blake website.