07.06.2010, Words by Charlie Jones


JAMES BLAKE has been hyped to the hilt in recent months and if this EP doesn’t totally justify it (how could it?), it makes it a lot easier to understand. Taking the downtempo route of much post-dubstep but giving it a surprisingly rich depth of feeling, ‘CMYK’ is oddly sensual. Blake has an obvious weakness for the female R&B voice (and voices in general – whether it be the Sa-Ra-ish murmurs on the title track or Footnotes’ vocoders) and snatches of Kelis, Aaliyah and Brandy are peppered all over these four tracks. Maybe it’s from listening to all those 2-step remixes of R&B hits at the turn of the century but the 22 year-old doesn’t seem that interested in modern R&B (Blake recently remixed Destiny’s Child’s Bills Bills Bills under his Harmonimix alias), instead preferring the thickness and expansive glow of the 90s era, rearranging his jerky samples into results that can be awkward but somehow work well against the tracks’ general placidity. Generously pared down for maximum spaciousness, Blake has talked about making dance music that’s more than just a club soundtrack and while the R&S label motto is “In Order To Dance”, it’s hard to imagine much of this, save for the title track, making anyone run to the floor, unless it’s to sway serenely for a few minutes. There are plenty of clever, tactile programming details to appreciate, but they’re sensitively pushed into the background, in service to all the elegiac textures and sumptuously spacey art-R&B dreaminess that abounds. Blake’s apparent base in musical theory seems to have paid off. Unusually for an electronic producer, ‘CMYK’ is richer musically than it is sonically.

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