When James Blake started making waves in 2010 with ‘CMYK’, his sound was refreshingly intimate, at a time when everyone else seemed to be trying to recreate arena anthems and bouncy, pop tunes. Lead single from his debut record, cover of Feist’s ‘Limit To Your Love’ became a flagship track on alternative music shows; Nick Grimshaw playing it almost every night in his evening radio slot.
When the album was released, and Blake was able to open up this sound into an all-encapsulating 38 minute introverted and reflective masterclass, the dizzying heights reached in ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ and the wallowing, alt-dubstep isolation of ‘To Care (Like You)’ affirmed James Blake as a talented guy, but the collection was criticised for not being memorable enough. Two years later and following two other EPs, Overgrown takes the criticisms and commendations on board to engage the listener in a tale of lust and yearning which demonstrates profound honesty, floundering melancholy and irrefutable musical ability.
Comeback single ‘Retrograde’ occupies a different head space in comparison to that of his debut; sparse handclaps and alluring backing hums complement the lyrics as he urges to “Ignore everybody else, we’re alone now.” The production is intricate and clever, building from simple beginnings with layers of synths and percussion. This structure is replicated in ‘Voyeur’, a background grumble with the occasional piano chord escalates with the introduction of cowbell and various other percussive sounds until the sound is a swarming hive of activity.
Following on from his collaboration with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon on his Enough Thunder EP, Overgrown features Brian Eno in the throbbing ‘Digital Lion,’ and also ventures into glitchy hip hop with an appearance from Wu Tang’s RZA on ‘Take a Fall for Me.’ This is incorporated to great effect near the beginning of the record, and is especially successful in making a memorable track which isn’t so different that it feels out of place.
From start to finish, the record swelters with intensity, popping through an aura of oceanic synths, the sound is richer than ever before, and Blake opens up through fragmented production and falsetto loops. Profoundly spilling all of his feelings across the record, there are heady heights and destitute lows but it is perfectly moulded with delicate production. Listen to Overgrown and become immersed in a deeply personal daze of reflective disorientation.