Blake gets introspective in new album

‘Assume form’ a deep dive


The cover of James Blake’s new album ‘Assume Form’

Alex Camilli, @A_Carnation

Artists disassociating themselves with modern trends in music is rarely attempted due to contemporaries indirectly influencing one another. However, James Blake is influenced by a visceral yearn for peace of mind and it is expressed beautifully on his latest album “Assume Form.”

Grammy-nominated recording artist and producer James Blake recently released his forthcoming “Assume Form” on Jan. 18, 2019. The album is noticeably upbeat compared to works prior, such as the albums “Overgrown” released in 2013 and “The Colour in Anything” released in 2016.

The choir-boy harmonies Blake is known for, both collaborative efforts and his own works, invite featured artists such as Andre Benjamin, one-half of hip-hop duo Outcast, Houston rapper Travis Scott, flamenco songwriter Rosalia, LA vocalist Moses Sumney, and Atlanta beatmaker Metro Boomin, to incorporate their own sonic qualities on the album.

“Assume Form” also happens to be the title of the opening track which introduces reverberated grand piano chords that occupy the entirety of the song. Blake’s layered vocals remain easily distinguishable, combined, the orchestral strings section strengthens the progressive nature of this reunion of frequencies.

The melancholic tone his lyrics give off has received criticism in the past, when he released a pre-release single from “Assume Form” on June 4, 2018, titled “Don’t Miss It.” Pitchfork Magazine writer Kevin Lozano dismissed the track as,

“Another beautifully brutal song to add to Blake’s large catalog of sumptuous sad boy music,” said Lozano. Lozano’s statement prompted Blake to respond with a tweet defending the idea that men should not feel as if they are submerging the status quo by expressing themselves.

Blake has experienced depression firsthand and provided reassurance with this statement: “Please don’t allow people who fear their own feelings to subliminally shame you getting anything off your chest.”

“Tell Them” is the third track on the tracklist featuring a controlled falsetto by Sumney and Blake executing a lamented chorus that seems to consider mystique as a defensive mechanism. The trap production courtesy of Metro Boomin creates an uneasy sonic frontier that breathes in sync with the violin performance that closes the track out.

“Barefoot in the Park” completely contrasts the previously mentioned song not only in lyrical content but instead of digital drum samples the rhythmic section is comprised of organic percussion with a wide array of woodblocks. It’s evident the vocals of both Rosalia and Blake work to compliment each other once the exuberant chorus makes its first pass.

The track, “Are You in Love” welcomes a gorgeous polyphonic synthesizer as Blake then inquisitively poses the question of the song’s title. Uncertainty is present in this dreamy segment and makes it feel like an interlude, being that the instrumental lacks unexpected transition. As a listener, this is one of the few tracks where I felt removed from the design of the album.

“I’ll Come Too” is a personal favorite because of the affectionate sprezzatura that comes with being truly invested in a significant other. The vocal sample that loops for the entirety of the song glides over the string arrangements as Blake shares a narrative of enamored selflessness.

Towards the end of this record, Blake’s introspections become more apparent especially on the track “Don’t Miss It,” which is a selfish self-analysis over layered pianos and an off-quilter drum beat. The climax of this album signifies Blake coming to terms with his fixations on trivial matters or at least acknowledge them to confront in the future.