James Blake – Klavierwerke review

If there was any doubt that UK producer James Blake was more than just a dubstep /funky artist, then Klavierwerke provides evidence to the contrary in spades. Indeed, in what is a commercially brave move by the recently re-launched Belgian label, Blake has been given the freedom to depart from the confines of the dance floor and enter a realm where there is only a passing reference to rhythm-based music. The title track is a prime example: based on a gloriously haunting piano intro that hangs in the air, Blake then introduces his somnambulant, deeply mournful vocals. The title track transposes the UK producer to a new realm, but it is also clear on this release that he doesn’t want to forget his roots either. This is evident on “Tell Her Safe”, where Blake’s eerie, indistinct vocals are also audible, but are presented over intricate, glitchy rhythms and organic percussion. “Don’t You Think I Do” also makes references of sorts to his releases for Hessle and Hemlock, as insistent claps underpin his melodic outpourings. However, the standout track, “I Only Know What I Know Now”, manages to straddle both of Blake’s worlds and understated, low-paced drums underpin the kind of ethereal piano-based songs that Nick Drake used to craft. Equal parts reflective songwriter and rhythm innovator, James Blake is a 100% exceptional talent.

Richard Brophy