Coming off of 2 features from Beyonce’s Lemonade, James Blake returns with the follow-up to his Overgrown album, The Colour in Anything. Blake continues his hypnotic, nocturnal sound. Evocative of a rainy Wednesday morning in London, his artistry has always channeled expressionism on a sonic scale. For those looking for the usual venture into his blue and gray surrealist soundscape, you will not be disappointed. No 2 songs sound the same, but they all provide a similar aesthetic. Providing the soundtrack for a story of love lost, but found within oneself again, a story not unfamiliar to anyone.
Those familiar with James Blake know that his sound can’t really be pinned down to one genre. Fusing ambient sounds and colors, he crafts an album that isn’t one thing more than another; it’s an experience rather. In a creative climate where much of the output is almost a Xerox of another artist or a re-hash of their own sound, James Blake manages to grow and evolve while still staying true to own his unique footprint in the musical landscape. Blake transitions from the atmospheric yet populated electronic sounds that he’s made his own, to ballad like serenades accompanied by minimalist piano chords. His production is as always, immaculate. He uses sounds and drum patterns like his fellow surrealist Salvador Dali would use his oil colors to show us the world through his eyes.
On the flip side, his songwriting leaves something to be desired. His prose falls short of his imagination with his production skills. Lines like “I don’t live here anymore” and (…..) leave the listener with a desire for just a taste of more creativity with his songwriting. This doesn’t take anything away from the experience because, sonically, he conveys just as much if not more than words do alone. Just as Dali using images to tell stories and not so much words. Regardless of his level of prose, his genius behind the boards does the job of painting a somber landscape, each kick, drum, and chord being the finer brushes of a paintbrush.
Frank Ocean and Bon Iver provide songwriting credits throughout with the latter providing a feature on “I Need a Forest Fire”. Rick Rubin provides, co-producing throughout the album. Rubin most notably provided his talents on Kanye West’s 2013 Yeezus. Where West proclaimed that he was a “reducer”. Bringing the raw, edgy, raunchy sound of the album, to the aggressive yet minimalist masterpiece that’s it been acclaimed. The sounds and vibes on The Colour In Anything is right in the pocket of Rubin’s expertise. Stripping down synths to help create a masterpiece of an album.
The Colour In Anything opens to “Radio Silence”, a track painted with hip-hop like snares and ethereal adlibs reminiscent of a Presbyterian gospel-hymn, Blake tells the listener a story of a crumbling relationship, that he cant quite seem to wrap his head around. The story isn’t new to Blake and neither is the sound but it is a welcoming, familiar introduction to the next chapter in the book that is the sounds of James Blake.
The 4th track into the album “Timeless” definitely takes a page from today’s hip-hop. Drum patters and blaring sirens bring Future to mind. If you didn’t know already, in a recent interview with Pitchfork, Blake stated that he had intended for Kanye West to be a feature, but it looks like it didn’t come to fruition. The song brings to mind “Life Round Here” from his Overgrown album which is also heavily rooted in hip-hop with an electronic flare.
The next track “ F.O.R.E.V.E.R.” is a perfect example of Blake’s artistry. Not just his tendency but also his talent to be able to swing from an electronic groove to a contemporary soul-like ballad. He plays somber, minimalist piano chords a stark contrast from the last track. All still very familiar to his fans returning for his 3rd album, but new and welcoming to the ones who are accustomed to his music.
The Colour in Anything isn’t a departure from the familiarity of Blake’s usual exploits; its production is masterful, crafted with a fine brush to paint imagery of bleak grey landscape. Though the songwriting is lack luster, it could be perceived as minimalist in contrast to maximalist aesthetic of his production. Overall, The Colour in Anything is a welcome new chapter and clocking in at 1hr and 10minutes it’s a lengthy venture into sonic expressionism. If you’re looking for music that’s almost as complex and dynamic as you are, look no further. The Colour in Anything is what you’ve been looking for.