James Blake’s first album found him crooning waif-like vocals over haunting basslines and looped piano, a post-dubstep singer-songwriter. Following its success the Londoner faces a dilemma.

How can he move on to bigger things without sacrificing his signature intimate style? “I don’t want to be a star,” he sings in his slow, dreamy way on Overgrown’s first track; yet the strings that swell into focus with perfect timing amid the pulsing bass and restrained beats show how well he has adapted to his new stature.

“I Am Sold” has a Portishead-style poise, the RZA-guesting “Take a Fall for Me” turns the Wu Tang Clan beatmaker into a rap bluesman and “Voyeur” suddenly switches into dance music, the shift neatly prefigured by a disco cowbell theme embedded earlier in the song. There are no growing pains in Overgrown.

James Blake



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