With the release of his self-titled debut in 2011, James Blake single-handedly created a new world of post-dubstep, infused with his own styling of soulful intonations over ambient beats, while challenging the notion of the typical song structure. His genius, displayed here on his second full-length, Overgrown, is not to be underestimated. While exploring the contrasting territories of absolute minimalism (“DLM”) and elaborate, post-apocalyptic productions (“Voyeur”), Blake carefully strikes a balance between oppositions that are echoed in innumerable themes during the LP. Where he tears into himself with self-loathing statements like, “Please don’t let me hurt you more”, he matches them with equally proud professions of his mental games on the track “I Am Sold”. This inner rivalry of man and monster only becomes less disturbing once you’ve left the dream-like production of songs (“To the Last”) and enter the nightmarish, anxiety ridden spheres (“Digital Lion”) where you might not make it out with your sanity still intact.
But keeping in mind that most of Overgrown was recorded in solitude, James Blake’s internal struggle is nothing if not relatable. His growth is not only felt in the willing survey of his troubled psyche, but also in his experimentation, sampling a Big Boi verse on the disruptive closer “Everyday I Ran”, and allowing RZA to take over vocals on “Take a Fall for Me”, a heart wrenching interior battle over the realization of a lost love. While the title of his first single, “Retrograde” may suggest reverting to a a sub-genre he questionably designed, Blake’s progression begs to differ.
Listen: “I Am Sold”, “DLM”, “Overgrown”|| Watch: “Retrograde”