He was an idiosyncratic dubstep producer, getting a bit of a reputation for his hauntingly sparse productions. Then he took to the microphone himself and the hype started happening. So who is this Jame Blake fellow and why should you bother with his self-titled debut album, coming hot on the heels of three well-received EPs from last year?

The answer is you probably shouldn’t, or at least start with the (very, very good) EP’s before taking a gander at this album, which while admirable in many ways is frustratingly flawed. Blake, who frankly is a great talent and a terrific producer, has taken a wrong turn here.

He does retain his possibly-genius touch for production: the way he gives his dreamy, airy tunes time and ability to breathe, the lovely and creative way he handles space and pauses. Not a track here that isn’t, at the very least, interesting to listen to the first time around.

But only the first time. Because while some of the tracks – I’m thinking specifically of the closer, the frankly fantastic and nearly sacral “Measurements”, as well as the terrific “Willhelm Scream” – are instantly memorable and merit
frequent revisit, Blake doesn’t do a good enough job marrying his style to his content. The songs drift by, autotuned and out of focus, adrift and aimless. It’s difficult to see what Blake was aiming for; if he wanted this to be a singer-songwriter album, well there aren’t nearly enough strong melodies around, and you’d be hard-pressed to describe it as apure dance album except on some stray parts.

I admire ambition. I think doing new things is a challenge for any artist, and I like that James Blake wanted to try something here. He does come up with some interesting stuff. But in the end what the album reminds me of is a cathedral with most of the rooms empty. And that might be very pretty at first look, but if you get into it you’ll discover that there just isn’t much going on. However, if you decide to do anything with his music, put Feist cover “Limit to Your Love” on and meditate. James Blake is the “current critical darling” – pick up the CD, out today and create yout
own opinion.

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