For Emma, Forever Ago was self released way back in 2007, which seems like an age ago now considering that we are still awaiting the follow-up nearly half way in to 2011. Justin Vernon has kept himself pretty busy though, with side projects such as Gayngs and Volcano Choir along with high-profile collaborations with the likes of Kanye West. We also had the Blood Bank EP, which I personally think was underrated and often forgotten. Calgary is the first taste of the self-titled follow-up album due out next month (although if you’re in to the words, then the album lyrics are up on the Jagjaguar site).
That debut was always going to be a hard record to follow, partly due to its reception but mainly because of the unique circumstances in which it was recorded, and how integral that was to its appeal. Everyone loves an album with a back story but there’s no way that this guy was ever gonna go back to that cabin by himself and record a new batch of songs, for this reason there is going to be a portion of the hardcore fan base that might feel disappointed with the extra instrumentation and flirtations with electronica. Although none of this should come as a surprise to anybody, the entire basis of Gayngs is collaboration, and Volcano Choir was pretty experimental in terms of studio manipulation. Calgary eases you in slow though, a sombre organ introduces Vernons distinctive falsetto, the song dies temporarily before swelling louder around a similar refrain. The third time around, drums and a few synthesised melodies are added to the mix. The trick is repeated for a fourth time by which point the full complement of sound is present and the song feels fully formed with guitars audible for the first time. It’s a clever trick, taking a stripped back idea and repeating it each time building up the layers. It makes the final quiet passage of acoustic guitar and vocal all the more sombre and stark. I’m enjoying this song quite a bit, it’ll be interesting to hear how it compares to the sound of the rest of the album and how it fits in with the other songs. By itself though it stands up pretty well, hopefully the album will be able to exist outside of the shadow of that debut.
Listen through the video below or head over to Jagjaguar for a download.
James Blakes debut album is easily one of the most eagerly anticipated releases of this year, thanks largely to the trio of Eps released back in 2010. For those that have been paying attention though, this self-titled record may come as a little bit of a surprise. It seems that CMYK was kind of a curveball in many ways, the ghost like vocals and jittery beats reminiscent of Burial landed Blake cleanly labelled as a dubstep producer. James Blake (S/t) in actual fact is more likely to be associated with artists such as Anthony Hegarty, Bon Ivor and even Imogen Heap, with his frail falsetto taking centre stage over the beats. The backdrop to Blakes haunting vocals is still intriguing though, and on first impression seems almost minimal in its approach, but this is just another of Blakes many strengths, he shows impressive restraint and subtlety creating silence where there should be noise and noise where there should be silence. His manipulation of bass tones and beats sounds almost as though the music is being sucked in rather than projected which creates kind of a vortex for the emotive and often multi-tracked vocals to float over. Much has been made of the Feist cover; Limit to your love and whilst it’s a stunning showcase for Blakes voice and dramatic ivory tinkling, it is by no means the strongest effort here. The 11 tracks on offer move incredibly slowly, Blake is in no rush whatsoever to provide you with any quick fixes, it’s a cliché but you really need to digest this album whole as it were intended. It’s not a particularly easy ride either, this is clearly a personal journey and at times it can feel almost awkward or intrusive bearing witness to Blakes confessions, ‘my brother and my sister don’t speak to be, but I don’t blame them’ he admits on I never learnt to share. You simply can’t label this music dubstep, it’s so much more than that, a progression at least, there is no box that this can be stuffed in to. James Blake is out there on his own right now and has made not only a brilliant album, but a completely original one. Cue Mercury prize nominations and countless imitators.