The new prodigy of indie music hardly made his entrance with a bang, but the unassuming whimper that is the style of James Blake should not be mistaken for meekness. The UK native is barely out of University, but has already released three EPs and an album providing sufficient evidence that a novice doesn’t equate a vision out of focus.
The musical identity of James Blake is that of soulful minimalism. On his first EP, titled CMYK, he used mostly R&B samples from popular 90s songs that he mashed together beyond recognition in order to create a completely different track. The genre of his music can best be classified as electronic pop, but these songs fit neither on the club dance floor nor on modern top 100 charts. Instead Blake combines the clean sounds of a piano, soul singers, and even his own falsetto with the digital noise of synthesizers, a vocoder, blips, scratches and static to form a sparse and mellow vibe.
As opposed to some of his electronic contemporaries, Blake isn’t afraid of the space in between each click and downbeat. He exploits the space in the room instead of trying to fill it. He doesn’t fuse together retro and futuristic elements, but lays them side-by-side so you can hear their differences and watch them interact. This music is a stark contrast to the current Pop and Rock trend that “louder is better.” Amazing how substantial a light touch can be.
If you like: Bibio, Bon Iver, Antony & the Johnsons, Thom Yorke
Check out: James Blake (start with his self-titled full length album, continue to the Klavierwerke EP and graduate to his other EPs)
Feeling brave: Gold Panda, How to Dress Well
AI level: Advanced