James Blake 'The Colour In Anything' review

James Blake finds beauty in refinement on his third solo project - Ben Smith reviews.

Ben Smith

Date published: 9th May 2016

Image: James Blake 

'Radio Silence' is an apt opener for an artist who's been on the solo down-low since releasing the Mercury Prize winning Overgrown three years back

Scouring Beyonce's liner notes, you'll find that James Blake scribed a track for 'Lemonade'. Then in keeping with the flash-bang marketing trend of late - he hushed a surprise announcement over Annie Mac's tannoy a day ahead of its stealthy release. 

While the record arrived rather abruptly - not that we're complaining - the album in contrast is a tutorial in less-is-more elegance. 

Sticking by his archetypal model, James compromises any colourful density for sparse bleakness, allowing his paper-thin vocal to breathe. And while bleak is the primary tone running through the album, like a rainbow amongst grey clouds, in no way does the drabness overshadow its beauty.

At seventeen songs in length this is a considerably deep and nocturnal listen; its skeletal frame is refraining soul, seamless percussion and intermittent stabs of the piano - the layering is sublime throughout.

Evidencing this, on the stand-out 'Radio Silence' his yearning voice occupies feather-weight percussion, spectral harmonies, low frequency drones and ambient synth to ink a canvas of pain amongst sonic beauty (listen below). 

There's well-mapped hook-ups too - stretching as far as enlisting illustrator Quentin Blake for the album artwork. Musically, he stressed a keen desire to feature collaborations on this album and flew to the US part-way to work with Rick Rubin on production.

Elsewhere, 'I Need A Forest Fire' featuring Bon Iver's Justin Vernon brings a majestic groove tp the fore, while Frank Ocean programs 'Waves No Shores' with jazzy piano in an infinite vastness for the records star turn. 

On Blake's most soulful dealing to date he sings about love, longing and loss against a meditative backdrop entirely reflective of the records hypersensitive state. There's no re-conjuring of formula here, Blake's knack for the nano-refinement of his sound is what's brought a further dazzling and authentic work.  

Like this? Try our review of Tourist 'U'