Y’all ready for some new James Blake dance jams? Good! But first, some links — so many links.
Since dropping the lovestruck, underrated Assume Form early last year, Blake has remained mighty productive. He’s released his own new songs including “Mulholland,” “You’re Too Precious,” and “Are You Even Real?” He’s contributed to new tracks from such artists as Bon Iver, Flatbush Zombies, Kehlani, slowthai, and Starrah. He’s contributed to the online discourse. He’s posted a bazillion covers, including songs by Billie Eilish, Radiohead, Ray Charles, Roberta Flack, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Nirvana, and a Frank Ocean song he cowrote.
And now, on top of all that, Blake has released a magnificent new EP. Before is so titled because it supposedly hearkens back to Blake’s days as a wunderkind DJ/producer in the London club scene. That’s definitely true in a sense, but Before is also very much a product of Blake’s aftermath, matching its brisk dubstep and 2-step beats with all the studio savvy and songwriting acumen he’s accumulated over the course of the past decade. It doesn’t sound much like old-school abstract dance music James Blake to me, but it doesn’t really resemble new-school deconstructed balladeer James Blake either. It’s a new sound for him, and it’s exhilarating.
The credits are pretty fascinating. Blake’s romantic partner, The Good Place actress Jameela Jamil, is credited as an Additional Producer on three of the four tracks. Those same three songs — “I Keep Calling,” “Before,” and “Summer Of Now” — also find Blake continuing to work closely with Mount Kimbie’s Dominic Maker, his close collaborator in recent years. The EP’s other track, “Do You Ever,” boasts a string arrangement from indie-adjacent composer Nico Muhly. “I Keep Calling,” arguably the most stunning of the four, also deploys the most head-spinning personnel: Based around a sample from Charlotte Day Wilson’s “Falling Apart,” the track features production and songwriting from the aforementioned Jamil and Maker plus Khushi, River Tiber, BADBADNOTGOOD’s Matthew Tavares, and drummer Josh Stadlen.
Stream Before below.
Before is out now on Republic.