Photo Courtesy of Stereogum
Story by Isong Maro/ Contributing Writer
British artist James Blake’s fourth studio album, titled “Assume Form,” was released Friday. This project comes off Blake’s several notable high profile collaborations on projects for Jay Z, Beyoncé, Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar and a host of others.
The album is 12 tracks long, and its total run time comes up to around 48 minutes. The production is handled mostly by Blake and English electronic music duo Mount Kimbie, while Atlanta’s Metro Boomin also received producer credit on two songs. Metro Boomin is also credited as a featured artist on both of the songs that he produced. Other featured artists on the album include hip-hop legend André 3000 of Outkast, Moses Sumney, Spanish singer Rosalía and Travis Scott.
Blake’s lyrics on this project tackle subjects of relationship and love, albeit with a hint of pessimism, but generally all that comes with said subjects.
On the eponymous album opener, Blake sings lyrics that suggest his willingness to accept his significant other’s love and to act accordingly, over some calming electronic production and syncopated piano work.
The track “Mile High” features Travis Scott and is one of the album’s highlights. It is a contemporary hip-hop infused track that has Travis Scott trading his unique autotuned vocals effortlessly with Blake’s falsettos over some moody production with sleek 808 drum work.
“Where’s The Catch” features André 3000 and has Blake pull one of the best-featured verses from the ever reclusive artist in a while. Both Blake and André discuss the subject of pessimism in relationships; their lyrics suggest that when things are going smoothly, it may not necessarily be a good sign.
“Are You in Love” has Blake singing over some more electronic production, this time over some organ work with gospel chord movements. Here he croons, “Are you in love, do your best impression for me,” which can be interpreted in many ways. One way is that Blake means to ask the question to himself and how he feels he should act due to his own cluelessness.
A representation of his British roots is evident, and the project is so cinematic that one would not be wrong to assume that some of the songs on this project would make for great soundtracks to Netflix’s hit show “Black Mirror,” given the show’s British origins.
Despite the album’s moodier elements, the bass-heavy production on songs such as “Mile High” and “What’s the Catch” suggest the intent to have these songs play out on a bigger stage as the songs on the project are very speaker-friendly.
“Assume Form” as a whole is a concise cinematic exploration of Blake’s thoughts on his current relationship. It feels and plays out like the soundtrack to a movie with sci-fi leanings and a very well put together one too. The production on the project is not over-the-top and is rather minimalistic given the electronic elements present. Individually though, with the exception of a few songs, some songs do not necessarily make for memorable listens by themselves. The cinema that is “Assume Form” is more of a puzzle piece than a collage, and would require each piece for one to fully appreciate it.
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