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Album Review: James Blake - Assume Form


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Normally, listening to James Blake leaves me a bit sad afterwards. Not today. Assume Form had me up and grooving around my bedroom.

Assume Form by James Blake

The emotions that rest in his music are what make Blake able to deliver incredible songs every time, and his fourth album is no exception. However, between The Colour In Anything and Assume Form, a lot changed in his life and the optimism is almost tangible in the new record.

James Blake has always been characterised as a ‘sad boy’, and to be fair, his previous music does lend itself to the label. He’s battled with depression and used his music as an outlet for his feelings. Recently, he has spoken on panels surrounding mental health, particularly regarding the effects of touring on artists.

It’s clear that he finds this attitude unhealthy and even archaic, and is speaking out in an attempt to break the stigma. “It is only ever a good thing to talk about what is on your mind,” he wrote in an open letter on Twitter.

Assume Form null and voids the aforementioned argument that sadness makes great art, as its positivity that makes it beautiful. Many of the songs are heavily influenced by his relationship with Jameela Jamil. When listening to 'I’ll Come Too', you can see Blake with red love hearts in his eyes. “I don't wanna go home / Shall we drive from zone to zone? / I wouldn't do this on my own / But I'm not on my own tonight.” 'Into The Red' is essentially a thank you letter to Jamil for the role she's played in bringing him out from the dark places he’s been: “Even doing nothing I am making the most of somehow / And the credit goes to her.”

Blake is one of the most well-connected artists in the business and his CV puts many to shame. The new album feels like a highlights reel of the people he’s worked with in his career. ‘Tell Them’ places Moses Sumney’s iconic soulful voice in foreign territory, behind a club-like beat. Excitingly, upcoming Spanish singer Rosalía is featured on ‘Barefoot In The Park’ and her authentic Spanish tone lends itself to an organic Blake track.

When not working on his solo music, Blake is part of the collective 1-800 Dinosaur and holds club nights in the US. This influence is dispersed throughout the album, with the songs ebbing and flowing between classic layers of reverb-heavy vocals, impressive piano, and heavier dubstep beats. After a run of love songs, ‘Where’s The Catch?’ featuring André 3000 is welcomed, with the beat providing a well deserved pick me up. Assume Form flows smoothly and makes for an engaging record from start to finish.

It can be hard to stray from what you’re known for. But it is harder to be inauthentic to yourself and expect good results. Coming out from a dark period, Assume Form kindly discards the 'sad boy' image that James Blake’s earlier work gave him. It is a work of positivity, simplicity and remarkable musicality. Easily put: “Have you ever coexisted so easily? Let's go home and talk shit about everyone.” It’s the little things.

Listen to Assume Form in full, on Spotify, now. 

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