After spending the tail end of 2011 pushing his idiosyncratic productions down two very different paths — the freakish experimental flourishes of Love What Happened Here and the manic emoting (complete with a Bonny Bear collab!) of Enough Thunder — James Blake revisits the profoundly weird stomping grounds of his self-titled debut on Overgrown. Free of Feist or Joni Mitchell covers, the only creative voice that’s tortured or tweaked this time around is Blake’s own, whether that means something as live and direct as “DLM” or the patience-rewarding returns of, well, everything else.
Like his last LP, Overgrown will sound like a beat head’s version of blue-eyed soul to most people, which sells Blake’s songwriting far too short. Thanks to his obsession with sound itself, the record doesn’t reveal itself unless you actually listen. Only then will you notice the dying embers and buzz-sawed sonar blips of “Our Love Comes Back,” the devastating build of “Retrograde,” or the catastrophic time changes of “Digital Lion,” a knob-twiddling duet with Brian Eno that’s got more in common with Kid A than Eno’s own recent run of selected ambient works.
He’s not the only guest that benefits from Blake’s restless imagination either; RZA also makes a highly unexpected appearance on “Take a Fall For Me,” rapping oh-so-softly about the rules of attraction and how he’d sure like to have a “candlelight dinner/ fish and chips, with the vinegar.” Taking all of Overgrown‘s left turns together, something that Blake told Pitchfork a few years back suddenly makes sense: Asked about critical comparisons to Jamie Lidell, the classically-trained singer said, “If you listen to some of Jamie Lidell’s stuff and hear the way he’s singing, it’s revivalist. Frankly, if that’s the comparison being made, I think some people need to get their hearing checked.” Amen.