James Blake fits no genre with original sound

Mike Turzilli

It’s not often that an artist creates a sound so unique, there is simply no genre to label it. The 23-year-old London native James Blake, however, has done just this. His work is so inventive and interesting, he simply can’t be placed into a standard music category.

Several aspects of Blake’s sound set him apart from traditional music, the largest being his extremely minimalistic approach. At times, Blake even dares to use silence as an ‘instrument.’ Furthermore, many of his songs lack the traditional format of a song: chorus, hook and bridge. This nontraditional style is what makes Blake’s music interesting.

Although Blake’s music travels on an unpredictable path, he relies on several unique tactics such as a low frequency bass. This sound helps Blake establish a more complex sense of mood.

Take the song “Limit To Your Love” off Blake’s self-titled debut album. This piece starts off with a harrowing piano riff accompanied by Blake’s delicate voice. This section spontaneously fades into a brief period of silence. Out of nowhere, an extremely deep bass riff comes in, which shocks and entices the listener. Once this bass fades out, Blake returns to an altered mix of the beginning section. As this third part comes to an end, listeners are presented with another brief moment of silence. This silence is violently interrupted by a combination of the beginning section and the low frequency bass. This layout may seem extremely odd, but it helps Blake convey his emotions more thoroughly.

Blake’s themes tend to be very melancholic. His songs have lyrics that cover issues such as broken dreams and failed romances. However, even his instrumental pieces create an atmosphere with depressive characteristics. Blake has mastered the ability to convey emotion without words. His use of short blips and digital hits aid him in this process.

Although these electronic methods have helped Blake establish a medium to convey his musical ideas, they have also allowed critics to falsely label his music as dub-step. According to an interview with The Boston Phoenix, Blake strongly opposes this label.

He stated that while his sound can be traced back to the origins of British dub-step, the Americanized dub-step is “a direct misrepresentation of the sound.”

Blake disregards music production’s limits and rules, and completes the process at his own leisure. This allows Blake’s music to flow at an unpredictable rate. True music fans will be pleased and intrigued by Blake’s sound.