James Blake Klavierwerke Review

Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Rising UK producer’s latest EP points the way towards an anticipated debut album.

Mike Diver 2010

Translated from the German, this four-tracker from rising British producer James Blake is titled Piano Works. It’s both an entirely suitable and somewhat misleading name for an EP-length offering that delights with immediate effect but also offers the kind of intricacies and textural depth that so few operating in contemporary electro circles can. Suitable because, yes, piano is a core constituent, chiming its way through the scattershot keys and cascading static of Don’t You Think I Do and the twisted vocals and dubbed-out Radiohead vibes of (I Only Know) What I Know Now. And misleading because it implies simplicity where the complexities of this release make a mockery of their usual allegiances with ill-advised indulgence and cluttered aural ephemera.

Every click beneath another click, every swoosh or sweep from computer keys through programmes and into production, is a fascinating facet of a whole that never once seems unduly overpopulated by elements that others might pronounce with greater emphasis. Blake’s compositions are close in spirit to those of Mount Kimbie, where appreciation begins cerebrally rather than physically; but he’s not shy of encouraging the timid out from the shadows and into the lights, either. The title-track is brilliantly indicative, in just five minutes, of the artist’s ability to build a shape-shifting floor-filler from scratch, exercising restraint where certain peers might go straight for the obvious 2-step-indebted intonations of commercial dubstep. Klavierwerke, the track, gradually unfolds from inconspicuous beginnings into a number evocative of Pariah’s sensitive shufflers. Tell Her Safe, meanwhile, proffers propulsive but treble-twitching percussion atop ghosts-in-the-machine vocals – again, it’s something that fans of Radiohead’s more out-there flirtations with dance dynamics will fall for instantly.

If Blake’s CMYK release of the spring was his warning shot across a packed club that he could mix it up with the very best of the world’s wonky bassheads, a rollicking but firmly focused party-starter that was half calling card, half greatest hit in waiting, then this set is the essential comedown. It offers cool and calm where its predecessor promoted sweat and swagger, the contrast between then and now as apparent as Darkstar’s synth-pop slow-down from Aidy’s Girl is a Computer to current single Gold. And it points the way towards a debut album, due early 2011, that’s set to be excellently received.

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