2019 – Pop / R&B
Assume Form is the story of achieving a purer and truer life
Since his work with Beyoncé up to his own works, James Blake proved to be an excellent composer. Moving from the basic catchy lyrics to the metaphors with thousands of meanings, James always played with the instruments, lyrics and voices with cleverness and thoughtfulness. In Assume Form (2019), Blake reaches a new level of composition, not just for investing in hidden word games and meanings, but also, in the structure of the songs and also, how they speak and share feelings.
With no doubt, Assume Form is an album of the search for truth, self-knowledge and self-analysis. Since the dark beats up to the hip-hop/rap harmonies, since the sober voices that transitions to the drunk and voices that act without consequences. Since the sadness up to the sensuality, Assume Form is unique in its own way. The song that names the album, “Assume Form”, is a boneless desire to experience the world in its purest and most unique form. The combination that we don’t see only in here, but all over the album, is ambitious not only because it mixes the analogical instruments with the most modern sounds, but also, how Blake worked his voice and his vocal range.
As it was said, Assume Form is a search album for truth, but also for new experiences. In the role of a teenager who does things that are out of his livelihood just to be called “cool”, James ventures into rap with Travis Scott, André 3000, Moses Sumney and Metro Boomin. While “Mile High” abandons a complex and catchy sound, leaving the responsibility of the song in the lyrics, which basically talks about sex; “Tell Them” has a really repetitive lyrics, in fact, the whole song is made up of different choruses. Both of them uses a lot of metaphors and word games to get the message across, which is often not even clear. With sure, If the listener wants to know the real meaning, he will have to search about it. Even “Mile High” having a great vocal performance and “Tell Them” having the voices as instruments, the generic sonority still noticeable. Unfortunately, the collab with Andre 3000, “Where’s the Catch”, is not so prominent despite having a great contrast between all the elements of the song while questions about something being true since it’s so good.
Different from the others collaborations, “Barefoot In The Park (feat. Rosalía)” isn’t generic. This track mixes the Rosalia’s characteristic and striking sound, with James’s Americanized beats, while the voices of both of them create an eccentric romance that ranges from the sensuality of the breath to the sadness of the solemn voice. In the middle of the collection of collaborations, “Into The Red” is a thank you postcard to James’s beloved for she’s always by his side, that intrigues with its vocal performance. The most amazing, it’s how James made it all sound unique and connected, even though the early piano and organ in combination with the vocals of electronic music would be something that wouldn’t work for many.
The Love is something really strong in all media, in Assume Form this isn’t different. “Can’t Believe The Way We Flow”, even though it’s just a romantic song, has a great progression since the begging when the electronic sound breaks into the vocals, and how the songs shrouds of dense moments and lighter moments. “Are You In Love?” shows the uncertainties of love that begin in the early demarcations and get lost in the crescendo of synthesizers. Of course, the voices in this track are incredible: the vocal power of Blake becomes an essential part and takes the lead role of the choir composed by his own voice creating a game in our head.
Sometimes in “I’ll Come Too”, James is out of tune and out of harmony with the beat and lyrics of the song. This track is somewhat terrifying due to the voices that mimic cartoon ghosts while James creates fantasy about your obligations. After that, in “Power On”, Blake takes on a vocal character that goes from good boy to growling guy, but who loves his beloved because now he’s got real. The Blake’s purposely sloppy voice works with the muffled beats and pianos. To finish the album, “Don’t Miss It” is a unique account of mental illness and how to act on it. The piano and the remixed voices of this track can demonstrate in a sound way the principle of the lyrics. “Lullaby For My Insomniac” is an experimental song that has its purpose to help people sleep. James has revealed that he has trouble sleeping so, in a way, this song becomes very personal for having a longing and relating it to other people.
In a unique way, Assume Form is a great album, but also, something that is far from perfect. Of course, this LP has great songs like “Assume Form”, “Mile High” and “Can’t Believe The Way We Flow”, and others that end up being more mediocre like “Tell Them”. Even Assume Form being a very cohesive album, where James Blake managed to work different elements in almost all songs, over time, you start to feel saturated with the sound that, although not quite the same, ends up tiring and very similar. Even with all this, the ambition of the singer must be exalted because it is increasingly difficult to see someone trying to innovate like Blake.
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