James Blake has been making top tier records for a whole decade now, and this man isn’t stopping anytime soon. The vast majority of James Blake fans were acquainted with his music from incredible projects like 2013’s Overgrown and 2019’s Assume Form, as well as his collaborations with icons Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, among many others. I fell in love with his music just before he released his 2011 self-titled debut album, and more specifically through a track “CMYK”, one of my favourite records ever. Despite his phenomenal EPs in CMYK and Klavierwerke, as well as his stunning debut album, he has never really been able to capture the same grit and club-like energy as his 2010 masterpieces. His brand new EP Before may be the answer to that observation. This project took me back to the James Blake I fell in love with, and goddamn is is amazing.
The 4-track EP is a brief but stunning body of work that showcases not only his versatility but his ferocious and fiery sound. The gorgeous “I Keep Calling” kicks off with angelic voices, and a subtle groove that transitions into a beautiful melodic piece, with James Blake’s voice and presence in the centre of it all. The thumping beat and groove kicks in, and yeah! An absolutely incredible way to kick things off. “Before” is a dynamic follow-up, with a bass-heavy groove and an ethereal hook and vocals throughout. The beat and synth-heavy soundscape gets eerie yet super hypnotic at the 3 minute and a half mark. The thick, Radiohead Kid A– esque tone and groove. My favourite track is probably “Do You Ever”, with it’s dynamic and eclectic melodies and compositions that are masterfully manipulated, creating a dynamic, groovy and colourful sound that just hits, man. “Summer Of Now” is a stunning, groovy and ethereal way to close the project. The subtle electronic groove, with James Blake’s vocals giving a warm touch to the ending. It’s one of the more beautiful moments in his discography, and a fitting way to end this incredible album.
James Blake has remained one of the most unique artists to grace the stage, remaining consistent and always finding a way to shock and impress. His unique sound has remained one of the most thrilling things to come out of music in the last 10 years and his ability to constantly push the boundaries of sound within music is something I’ll always be mesmerised by. Before EP is a confident body of work, embracing the same level of experimentation he attained in 2010 – 2011. His incredibly lavish sound is personified through a gorgeous vocal performance that levels with some of the modern icons in music. This project is incredible, and James Blake continues to exceed as a musician. Great job with it!