For the past year and a half, it’s been nearly impossible to visit a music blog without encountering some mention of British electronic musician James Blake. And while it’s debatable whether or not the 23-year-old dubstep artist is worth the cavalcade of attention, Blake is nothing if not prolific. His self-titled debut LP came out last year, and his latest release, Love What Happened Here, is the fifth EP he’s released in less than two years.
Blake also gets points for being diverse. His music ranges from faithful piano covers of Feist’s “Limit to Your Love” and Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” to the glitchy, fully electronic sounds found here on Love What Happened Here. And while this virtually vocal-free release may not be his most accessible work, it’s still listener-friendly enough to pull in a wide audience. At just three tracks, it’s a quick listen. Blake has created a tightly woven, atmospheric collection.
From the opening whooshes of the synthesizer on “Love What Happened Here”, it’s clear that this is very much a James Blake album. He doesn’t need a piano to show off his jazz influences, and even when he’s working mostly with electronic blips, Blake has an unmistakable off-kilter, darkly soulful style. “Love What Happened Here” is a looping, hypnotic track that effectively uses cryptic vocal samples for variation.
Then, after the punches of the opening track, Blake gives us “At Birth”, which is a moodier, more club-friendly song. And while sceptics may argue that not much happens over the course of the song’s four and a half minutes, there are enough swells and dynamics to prevent the pounding beat from becoming monotonous. Blake crafts his songs carefully, and this is one that benefits from multiple listens.
The album’s closing track, “Curbside”, is the most playful on the album. With dynamic percussion and a tinge of world music influence, Blake picks up the energy level, crafting a song that feels surprisingly breezy. This layered song somewhat bridges the gap between Blake’s more accessible recent work and his more obtuse earlier EPs, such as 2010’s Klavierwerke. “Curbside” is a song to be appreciated on many different levels, and Blake’s brilliant use of sampling has a lot to do with its appeal. The song flies by.
This album manages to be both enigmatic and playful. And while some fans (including myself) might miss Blake’s smooth vocals and off-kilter piano, this is still a very interesting collection of songs. Each of Blake’s releases so far have been different, and this latest evolution in his music is no less interesting than the ones before. Blake and his career are still very young (despite what his large output would suggest), and it’s great to see that he’s still full of ideas.
Love What Happened Here may only consist of three songs, but Blake makes the most of the short format, offering three varied, equally interesting tracks. The songs balance each other out perfectly, and Blake shows a real sense of playfulness and vivacity in this short offering. I can’t wait to see what he comes out with next.