Monday, November 22, 2010

James Blake - Klavierwerke EP review

According to Dummy Magazine, James Blake's new EP, Klavierwerke, is supposedly "some of the best new music you'll hear today".  I beg to differ.  Of all the reviews that I have read about this EP I have yet to find one that says something negative about this collection of "songs".  I realize that in saying this I am welcoming an abundance of nasty comments from people who think, for some reason, that James Blake is some kind of mastermind.  They will belittle me and say that I don't "get it", or that the music "transcends" criticism.  I'm sorry to burst your bubble.  To me, the Klavierwerke EP is little more than the sounds of someone who needs to stop sitting in his bedroom fidgeting with sequencers and keyboards.

The British born Blake got some recognition with his last EP, CMYK, which showed some promise, using samples from 90s R&B tunes in a somewhat familiar U.K. dubstep manner to create catchy dancefloor singles.  On the Klavierwerke EP, however, Blake opts for a more minimalist approach, using little more than his piano and his own voice, which is fitting since Klavierwerke literally means piano work in German.  The title is a bit deceptive (maybe that's why he opted for it to be in German), since those expecting something like his cover of the Feist song "Limit to Your Love", will be gravely disappointed.  Instead of something more traditional, Blake takes a cut and paste approach with all of the four tracks that appear on this EP, single piano notes are looped over and over, sparse vocalizations are mechanically manipulated and elementary games of patty cake are arranged together in such a way that it evokes some kind of faux importance in the ears of listeners who just so badly want this EP to be good.

In regards to all of the reviews floating around in cyberspace that are praising this EP as being "the next big thing", I have to throw in my two cents and disagree.  Pitchfork asserts that "few artists are stretching the boundaries of dance music wider than he [Blake] is right now", which begs the question, who, exactly is dancing to this?  And of course, what, exactly does this "dancing" look like?  If you answered the really messed up girl/guy who dresses like a hobo?   The one who doesn't wash his/her hair?  The one swaying slightly from side to side in the club while a lit cigarette dangles precariously out of the corner of his/her mouth?  The one who looks as though they might pass out/projectile vomit at any moment?  I would have to say that you've probably already heard this record.

Overall, James Blake's Klavierwerke EP sounds like the tinkerings of someone who left his final project in his music production class to the last minute and spent the entire night before it was due recording a bunch of glitchy plinks on the piano and running his voice through a filter in Garageband.  It's experimental, ambient, pitchy, droning, twitchy, conflicted and full of incongruities.  Do yourself a favor, don't buy into the hype, and by all means don't listen to me either.  Listen to the EP (check out the embedded video below, go to youtube and go to James Blake's channel to listen to all four songs for free) and make the decision for yourself.

James Blake - Limit To Your Love (Feist cover)

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