James Blake James BlakeOrder / Pan
HEMLOCK (HEK011, 12”)
This is the 12” without vocals James Blake referred to in the interview we published with him a couple of weeks ago. Everything he said there turns out to be true: “Order / Pan” is radically different from what the young man has been doing over the past year (and even over the course of his whole, albeit short, career) - it sounds nothing like his first recordings on Hessle ( “The Bells Sketch”) and Hemlock ( “Air & Lack Thereof”). The key thing is the lack of vocals. It’s not purely the lack of singing - he didn’t do that in the early days either, remember - but a complete lack of voices, even as a sound resource for the creation of textures or 2-step rhythms. There are two exceptions: a sample – on “ it’s the thing” – and a laugh and a cough that aren’t his on “Order”. The interesting thing about the single is that it doesn’t sound like Blake. Just when we thought he was settling in to his role as a singer-songwriter with echo, he comes out as a competent producer of toxic beats.
“Order / Pan” is good for his image: for those who found him too sweet or who felt he had betrayed his underground roots on “James Blake” (2011), here’s proof that his allegiance with the club still exists. “Order” is a very minimal track, featuring a bassline and a snare repeating with an inflexible cadence in the pitch-black night. It is closer to the vintage trip-hop sound of the Mo’Wax label, than it is to dubstep. Like a skeletal reduction of the sharp beats of illbient, according to DJ Spooky. “Pan” is equally slow and sombre, but more varied in its unfolding - with beats so flaky they sound like modular synths, with stabbing basslines and a great feeling of mystery. Blake’s new stuff is a bit too rigid to be a great 12”. It still lacks the boldness to climb out of his particular K-hole - but he has shown us his third creative pillar in less than two years. If he keeps going like this, his dark side will only get better - a necessary contrast to his advances in pop.
“Order / Pan” preview: