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James Blake - Assume Form (Album Review)

Tuesday, 29 January 2019 Written by Milly McMahon

Photo: Amanda Charchian

James Blake’s fourth album, ‘Assume Form’, is his most diverse creative work to date. Featuring a powerful line up of collaborators, including artists the writer admires, like Andre 3000, Travis Scott, Metro Boomin and Rosalía, it feels like spiritual growth has taken place since the release of ‘The Colour in Anything’ in 2016.

On ‘Assume Form’ Blake embraces a clearer, more focused approach to songwriting. Where more abstract lyrical ideas were once accompanied by overwhelming instrumentals, today Blake’s voice is less auto-tuned and warped.

After entering into therapy, speaking out in protest at his ‘Sad Boy’ label, empowering his own aesthetic and then finding love and settling in L.A., the London native also believes his extensive work with other artists has helped shape and refine his sound for the better.

Don’t Miss It is an archetypal Blake piece; reverb-heavy and intense. Moving slowly, obscuring the listener from full view, emotive seeds are planted from which fluctuating moods grow.

Barefoot in the Park, featuring Rosalía and inspired by the Neil Simon play, is an exotic, sun-drenched revelation. Staccato percussion underpins the backing melodies of the track, while the vocalists harmonise to create an entrancing love song, boasting a hopeful and romantic vibe.

Something fresh and vivid has been stirred within the composer’s depths. An irreverent talent, such inspiration is a deeply exciting prospect for Blake. The darkness of his aesthetic lives on through ‘Assume Form’, but new feelings complement his once muted palette—there is lightness here that has not been showcased to date. His lyrics feel like an open love letter: brave, unabashed and proud.

Slightly jarring, though, is Scott's spot on Mile High, a track that undermines the authenticity of Blake’s intentions throughout this album. It may have made sense when discussed strategically, but in truth it sits slightly separate from the album’s intense, emotional content. Alone it is strong, but it falters in context of the album's raw autobiographical focus.

Still, as a brilliant, heady display of revelatory production and writing techniques, ‘Assume Form’ is a hypnotic, spellbinding arrangement of unique sounds stitched to poetry. A must hear for this year.

James Blake Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sun April 07 2019 - MANCHESTER O2 Victoria Warehouse Manchester
Tue April 09 2019 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Wed April 10 2019 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Wed April 17 2019 - LONDON Eventim Apollo
Thu April 18 2019 - LONDON Eventim Apollo

Click here to compare & buy James Blake Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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