James Blake’s latest album commences with a flourishing grand piano. It’s the kind of intro that demands you finish your conversations and switch off your mobile phones, because the main feature is about to start.
When the beat kicks in, we are transported to a late night bar in Croydon. There’s something about the record which is quintessentially London, but from the perspective of a local and not a tourist. It’s raw, humbly dreamy and above all, it’s cool. There are no pretences here, this is James Blake telling it how it is from hope and loneliness to love and the search for genuine connection. He holds nothing back and has everything to offer.
In the subsequent track “Mile High”, Blake teams up with Metro Boomin and Travis Scott. In the opener, Blake prepares to “Assume Form” and here we see him on top form, on equal footing with hip-hop’s finest.
“Barefoot In the Park” shifts the album’s tone slightly with a creepy and dreamy intro. The rising Spanish star ROSALÍA provides gorgeous female vocals for the track, which is warm and tender. Two tracks later, we are treated with “Are You In Love?” to which the answer for Blake seems to be an unapologetic yes.
“Are we one?” Blake tentatively asks. He sings: “But I promise you, your place is safe / Now what about mine?” The track is a love song of an honest variety. There’s no grandiose or pretence. Instead, Blake humbly promises “I’ll try my hardest for you.” With this line he admits that love is not as easy-going and flawless as the production on this sweet track. All he can do is try his hardest and this tender, humbling promise is the kind of sincerity which raises the record to the highest standard.
The heavily toured “Where’s The Catch” ft. André 3000 is naturally superb. The surrealist vocal effects combined with the stripped back piano offers something new to the record. Album closer “Lullaby For My Insomniac” romantically tells his partner that if she is staying up, Blake is too. He sweetly confesses: “I’d rather see everything as a blur tomorrow if you do.” This romantic closer is the perfect end to a tender and roiling album, which brings a new level of sincerity to hip-hop.
Overall, Assume Form deserves the highest of praise. This is James Blake at the top of his game and now that top form has been assumed, we’re more excited than ever to see what the talented producer achieves next.