James Blake: Enough Thunder

James Blake: Enough Thunder

B-

James Blake

Album: Enough Thunder
Label: Universal Republic

As quickly as James Blake emerged as dubstep’s most promising young producer last year, he broke from the genre, reinventing himself for this year’s self-titled full-length as a blue-eyed soul singer with a unlikely electronic pedigree. Given Blake’s complicated history with dubstep, and how in recent interviews he has griped about its transformation into chest-beating frat-party music, it probably isn’t an accident that the title of his follow-up EP, Enough Thunder, could be interpreted as chiding the genre for its ever-more-aggressive bass. A fragile ballad of just voice and piano, Enough Thunder’s title track plays like a pointed reaction to the hard-quaking sleaze of crossover dubstep. The EP’s standout cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case Of You” is similarly bare and beatless.

Blake hasn’t entirely sworn off glitchy rhythms and digital manipulation—the Hipster Runoff-baiting Bon Iver feature “Fall Creek Boys Choir,” in particular, is a tangle of abstract, Auto-Tuned soul—but he mostly leaves his own voice unaltered, and his minimalist arrangements showcase that voice more than ever. Since Enough Thunder feels a bit scrapped together, the EP doesn’t fully recreate the sustained mystique of Blake’s full-length album. The singer’s stately quaver makes it easy to overlook that this is mostly B material, though. He has the rare voice capable of squeezing poetry from even the most ordinary lyrics. Blake’s transition from producer to troubadour hasn’t been seamless, and his songwriting still has a long way to go, but as long as he continues to play up that voice, he’s on the right path.