Thursday, November 7, 2013

James Blake at Terminal 5

Twenty-five-year-old James Blake was born into a musical family. His father, James Litherland, was a singer and guitarist in Colosseum, a British progressive jazz-rock band, in the late 1960s, and then became a session musician and solo artist. London-based Blake is an electronic music producer and singer-songwriter, and is frequently heralded as a leading figure in the "post-dubstep" community. After a series of 12" singles and EPs, Blake’s eponymous debut album was released in 2011, and his second studio album, 2013’s Overgrown, won the coveted Mercury Music Prize in England on October 30th. He is also known as Harmonimix, particularly when releasing remixes.

Blake tonight performed his second of two nights at Terminal 5, and this was his second two-night run at the venue this year. This time around, he augmented his music with massive back lighting that rendered him and his two musicians as silhouettes for most of the concert. For most of the set, Blake sat almost shyly behind his keyboards and synthesizers, while guitarist/synthesizer player Rob McAndrews and drummer Ben Assiter sat across the dark stage from him like three figures in an eclipse. The set was comprised of a wash of innovative sounds that spanned many genres, including electronica, hip hop and blue-eyed soul. Whereas many newer jazz artists are using electronic sounds in their music, Blake’s often seemed to be the opposite, a foundation of synthesized effects seeking structure in laid-back jazz grooves. As a result, all of his compositions were radical, lyrical songs that served as launch pads for experimentation. Live, the commercial restrictions of his recorded work were stretched far with space jams, whether on original songs like “CMYK”, “Lindisfarne I &II”, “Retrograde” and “The Wilhelm Scream” or on his versions of Feist’s “Limit to Your Love” and Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You .” The daring nature of the music was often difficult to digest, but it always sparkled with freshness and improvisation. The music world has something new in James Blake.

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