Haunting. Sparse. Heart-wrenching. Smooth. Soulful. Atmospheric. Not words that get associated with dubstep too often these days. Oh sure, the genre started out painting in subdued shades of gray, more ghost stories than dance parties, all spooky bass and ethereal synth stabs. But these days, you mention dubstep to someone and they’re apt to envision a room full of sweaty, shirtless 16-year-olds, headbanging to, oh, I don’t know, something like this.
And while there’s nothing wrong with getting completely fucked up and getting pounded by an unrelenting jackhammer of sound every once in a while, it doesn’t make for the healthiest musical diet. Not overly well-rounded, you might say.
Which is why the music of uber-hyped UK producer James Blake is such a breath of fresh air. And he earns the hype. Although his origins as a producer are firmly rooted in dubstep, with his earlier works thoroughly dominated by oppressive basslines and syncopated beats, Blake’s musicality and willingness to defy genre boundaries were always evident. With the upcoming release of his self-titled debut album, Blake has completely broken out of whatever rules you would apply to whatever you think dubstep is.
On one of our favorite cuts from the album, “I Mind,” you can experience the full breadth of Blake’s musical machinations: his surprisingly soulful voice runs throughout the track, but is distorted, sampled and transformed into a eerie melody. A minimalist arrangement surrounds the voice–static waves float in and out of hearing, vaguely tribal percussion arrives on a wave of deep, deep bass. Taken together, “I Mind” is at once unlike anything you’ve heard and completely familiar, evoking emotion, but containing a bassline that you can’t help but move to.
And that is the power of James Blake. When his talents are fully realized (which isn’t the case throughout the entire album), he embodies all the emotion of your favorite singer-songwriter with the kinetic propulsion of your favorite producer. This guy is heading for something special.
James Blake- I Mind (DOWNLOAD REMOVED)
BONUS: If you’re still not convinced, watch the excellent video to Blake’s even mores0 excellent cover of Feist’s “Limit to Your Love.”