James Blake: The human approach
Thu 14th Jul, 2011 Features 1096 viewsin
James Blake is looking up inthemix. “I know inthemix,” he says down the phone from a hotel room in Portugal. “I’ve been on this website before.” Is it possible James Blake Googles his own album reviews? “I think someone linked me to it,” he replies, deadpan. “That’s nice. Well, hi.”
Sending this 22-year-old Londoner links to his internet mentions could be a full-time job. At the tail-end of 2010, our expert panel (and dubstep tastemakers far and wide) predicted that the New Year would be a triumphant one for Blake. After a string of EPs on Hessle Audio, Hemlock and R&S Records, the producer’s watershed moment came in February with the release of his debut album.
Now it was the turn of the broadsheets and radio DJs to wax lyrical. Here were 11 tracks that demanded no prior interest in murky London dancefloors or knowledge of names like Untold, Ben UFO and Pangae. What pricked fresh ears was Blake’s voice, whether warm and unadorned on Limit To Your Love or bent out of shape with electronics on I Mind.
Restraint seems to come naturally to Blake: the album never over-reaches. How, then, does he know when a vocal performance is just right? “The problem is: I don’t,” he says after a pause. “I’m my own editor, and that’s sometimes quite difficult. You don’t have a perspective on your music for the first few days you’re making it. So there’s a very dangerous period where you could really fuck things up, because you don’t know whether things are too much or too little, or whether they’re not emotionally honest enough or too much out on a limb that they sound embarrassing. I don’t know. I never know, really.” He delivers the last words with a kind of comfortable resignation.
Less-is-more seems to be Blake’s interview technique, too. Some questions he’s clearly answered too many times, and he gives them short shrift. Attempts to get inside the workings of his live show – how he coaxed intimate songs into festival-readiness – only get so far. “The live show retains the sound of the album but I think it takes it up a notch,” he offers carefully. “We’ve been breathing new life into it in some ways. Yeah, I’ve really enjoyed it.”