James Blake has undergone a stylistic evolution: originating from the U.K. underground dubstep scene to ‘sad boy’ music and now has more evidently found emotional solace in his most recent album. Assume Form, now over a year old, is a thought-provoking sentiment in itself: a testament to the constant commitment that is personal progress. It is also Blake’s record that is more profound happiness when it comes to love.
Exciting features as ever, are collaborations with moguls in the hip-hop sphere: Travis Scott and Andre 3000 embellish the album. Spanish pop-princess Rosalía provides a romantic rawness to their duet in ‘Barefoot in the Park’, daring Blake to sing in Spanish. Moses Sumney prompts vulnerability and directness when speaking of a one night stand in ‘Tell Them’, contrasting with Metro Boomin’s trap-ish production. Indeed, Blake can integrate other artists while comfortably staying true to his sound.
Unlike prior releases, Blake confessed, “I do think that this is kind of album I can play for my mum”. The album is rife with love songs such as ‘The Way We Flow’ and ‘I’ll Come Too’ are enough to make the profoundly alone swoon. James Blake is fearless in the telling of his feelings: “I’m going to say what I need / If its the last thing I do”, this is a conscious effort to acknowledge what makes you happy, opening the door to self-preservation.
Luckily for fans, the album stays true to James Blake style-production. Differently, this album has been critically-acclaimed within the pop-genre and seems to focus more on lyrical presence as opposed to weighted production, spouting lines such as “You are my fear of death / You wave my fear of self”. What makes this album exciting is the confrontation of existentialism, acceptance and relief of finding one’s place in the world. It adds instrumental layers and new colours to Blake’s sometimes dauntingly spacious production.
Poetically, the album finishes with ‘Don’t Miss It’, an ego-centric promise to himself to not miss out on life. It also feels as though in this final message, Blake is telling fans his revelations of what it means to metamorphose. While overly saccharine love songs are typically met with resistance, the sweetness of these lyrics lulls you into a romantic frenzy. There is a vital void of despair in Assume Form, choosing love and betterment over digression and sorrow.
Ultimately, Assume Form is a generous display of the capabilities of James Blake that have come a long way since the infancy of career-defining extended-play CMYK. Although it lacks Blake’s classic fogginess, it brings something as new and undeniably luscious to the table. The album is a breath of fresh air of one of the U.K’s most interesting and diverse artists and is so tantalizing that fans and critics are left wondering what is next from Blake.
James Blake’s Assume Form is available via Polydor