Monday 11 February 2013

James Blake - Retrograde

When Blake's self-titled debut album hit in 2011 it was met with a mixed response.  Whilst his technical ability as a producer was never in doubt and certain tracks are imbued with touching heartbreak, his minimalist approach left some cold.  The album may have earned the moniker 'blub-step', but it nevertheless received a Mercury prize nomination.

Despite the naysayers, Blake has returned doing what he does best: dub-step inspired electronic minimalism, where each small musical evolution has monumental impact.  As with The Wilhelm Scream, Retrograde takes the form of an extended crescendo.  Beginning with a gently hummed vocal melody, Blake layers on a deeply penetrating bassline, a siren-esque synth drone and ghostly vocals that slowly creep up on you.  It's all held together by a hand-clap beat that's as pitiful as Blake's haunting, cracking voice.

Alongside the skeletal production comes a bleak, apocalyptic video.  Retrograde may not be new territory for Blake, but it's a return to form from such a unique artist.


Listen: Retrograde is released today.