Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Album Review: James Blake - Enough Thunder

James Blake might quite possibly be the only artist out there nowadays that is really doing anything that is unlike what previous artists have been able to accomplish. The cold, soul-tinged piano ballads of the UK electronic musician's self titled debut are completely unique to any other artist in the genre, dabbling all across the spectrum from blues to dubstep, even managing to pull off a breathtaking cover of the ever so delicate Feist. On Blake's latest addition to his already ambitious discography, Enough Thunder, a clear vision of the future of Blake's career is given, taking everything displayed on his self titled to the next level, giving dubstep a good name again.

Enough Thunder opens with the chilling soundscapes of "Once We All Agree", which features Blake's use of disonant piano chords and his signature bass eruptions to set the stage for the remainder of Enough Thunder's emotionally turbulent 25 minutes. Along with "We Might Feel Unsound", which utilizes Blake's bluesy vocal performance over spastic and explosive percussion, the song essentially has the same atmopshere of Blake's self titled, although sounding slightly altered in a way that makes it significantly darker than previously released tracks such as "The Wilhelm Scream". On "Fall Boys Creek Choir", Blake brings Justin Vernon of Bon Iver into the mix, a collaboration that fans saw coming by a long shot after hearing the delicate, auto-tuned vocal melodies of tracks such as "Lindisfarne" and "Measurements". The collective ability of both artists is nothing less than stunning, which combines the brilliance of Justin Vernon's songwriting and beautiful untamed vocal energy with Blake's masterful production, giving the song a feel that could only be produced by two such contemporary greats.

And right when we are settled in to the eerie darkness of Enough Thunder's former half, James Blake throws a total curveball; a Joni Mitchell cover. After much consideration, it only seemed right for Blake to cover Mitchell, as the two of them are very alike in their unique musical and powerful vocal style that gives the two a similar mood, which Blake retains without flaw. Blake strips the folky, acoustic guitar driven song down to nothing but his piano, his soaring falsetto, and Mitchell's beautifully heartshattering lyrics. Unlike what was done on his cover of Feist's "Limit To Your Love" which turned the track into a dark, looming catharsis driven by earth shattering bass drones, Blake retains the emotional tone of the original song, despite completely reinterpreting it.

Enough Thunder is really just a continuation of where Blake left off on his self titled, with just as much (if not more) emotion and musicianship than he displayed on his debut. Hopefully in the future Blake tends to lean more towards his more delicate side musically, as tracks such as "A Case Of You" and "Enough Thunder" tend to have a stronger effect than other tracks that are mostly based around electronic beats and bass drones. At times it feels like the true message that Blake is attempting to communicate is squelched by overproduction, such as on "Not Long Now", which towards the end features a beat that gets rather irritating and really detracts from the song. But really, Enough Thunder shows us that after drinking a case of critical success, James Blake is still on his feet.

1. Once We All Agree
2. We Might Feel Unsound
3. Fall Creek Boys Choir
4. A Case Of You
5. Not Long Now
6. Enough Thunder

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