James Blake occupies a very special and privileged place in current music. He is a star producer who simultaneously has millions of monthly listeners alone. He is adored by R&B, pop and hip-hop fans as well as his fellow musicians and it is generally difficult to find a bad word to say about him in the press. His exquisite voice has undoubtedly contributed to his success, as has his versatility as an artist: the same approach to rap that covers Billie Eilish, the same style that he composes for the soundtracks of fashion films as he sings a duet. with Rosalia. In fact, his artistic roots lie in electronics: his first works emerged in the British post-dubstep scene and were characterized by the warm tones of R&B coloring the gray and icy emotional world that people like Burial had discovered . However, over the years his solo music leaned more towards ballad music with an emphasis on the piano, culminating in his last two albums, the Merely Correct Take shape (2019) and the boring and vague Friends who break your heart (2021), which was a big disappointment for me.
That’s why his return to electronics on his new LP seems to me to be a great success.
That’s why his return to electronics on his new LP seems to me to be a great success. We already saw it in the EP Before (2020) that the introduction of elements of dance music fits his style like a glove and gives him a dynamism that he sometimes loses in his affairs with pop and hip hop. But this Robots play in the sky It might be their best album since Overgrown (2013). Born from his tinkering with modular synthesizers and with a strong imprint of the future garage sound, Blake says the album follows the sonorous and emotional structure of a rave, starting powerfully and then leading us to a gentle descent. What works best on the album is precisely this powerful beginning: the first four tracks, “Asking to Break”, “Loading”, “Tell Me” and “Fall Back”, are a delight, with simple but addictive rhythms and textures the most interesting and drops that lead to pure ecstasy. This opening tetrad has all the courage and compositional meticulousness that Blake’s music seemed to lack, and is the best evidence that the Brits still have much to offer.
It’s not the first time that the Englishman has released a song that obviously needs a lot of work before it’s finished, and that usually happens with songs that fall in the same line of minimalist trap
From this moment on, different types of experiments begin to be interspersed, which do not always work. “He’s Been Wonderful,” for example, overwhelms the listener a little with its mix of samples, rhythms and synthesizers; “Night Sky”, on the other hand, does not create a completely coherent basis with its disparate sound elements. These songs contain moments of genius, but also other more disturbing ones that interrupt the flow of the compositions. More serious is the return to the mistakes of the last album in songs like “If You Can Hear Me”, a somewhat schematic piano ballad, and especially “Big Hammer”, where Blake seems content to create a very simple trap base and add some pretty annoying synths and effects. Not even a rehearsal of the legendary Ragga Twins is enough to save the furniture. It’s not the first time that the Englishman has released a song that obviously needs a lot of work before it’s finished, and that usually happens with songs that fall in the same line of minimalist trap.
This need to stay fresh and do what he wants rather than what is expected of him can sometimes lead him to compose music that only works in his head.
However, other pieces reach the level of the first bars of the album, and some of them perhaps explain the lack of thoroughness that sometimes affects their music. I’m referring to “Fire the Editor”, a beautiful song in which Blake confronts his inner “editor”: that voice that inhibits him for fear of failure and makes him not follow his own musical instincts. In the face of this inner enemy, the singer presents herself as confident and even cocky: “I’m not afraid / I’ve failed so many times”; “And when I see him again, you best believe me, we’ll talk.” This need to stay fresh and do what he wants rather than what is expected of him may sometimes cause him to Composing music that only works in his head, but it’s also what leads him to genius like this. , where the exquisite vocal melodies are surrounded by synthesizer arpeggios and trap percussion, which in this context enrich the ensemble. Or to moments as impactful and unique as “I Want You to Know,” where the modular synths, future garage base, his voice and vocal samples mesh perfectly in a way that few people could replicate.
The highlight of the album is the title track, an ambient composition of captivating and somewhat spooky beauty.
The highlight of the album is the title track, an ambient composition of captivating and somewhat spooky beauty. A strange ending, intentionally disappointing, which is perhaps the perfect end to an album that doesn’t strive for perfection. Robots play in the sky It’s a little uneven, yes, but that’s part of Blake’s venture, and it’s better than most of his recent projects. This return to his roots as a way to further his career has proven to be a success. While it won’t appear on many best albums of the year lists, I think it actually managed to pave paths for the future that seemed closed. In any case, “Fall Back” and “Tell Me” will at least become part of many euphoric and dark electronic playlists.