James Blake - 'Before'

9/10

The progression of James Blake over the last decade or so has been a rather captivating one to say the least. While starting off working towards bold and beautiful ethereal compositions in his earliest days, the producer has found himself largely in demand throughout the hip-hop and RnB community, lending himself to more beat-led concepts that bridge the gap between atmospheric soundscapes and rap flows, best showcased on his most recent album 'Assume Form'. But as he returns this year, it feels as though he is keen to return to those formative years as his new EP 'Before' gets us nostalgic for the origins of James Blake.

While this new collection has its feet firmly rooted in those earlier days for the artist, the general tone of these four tracks is to return with his next evolutionary step. So while the meandering flow and haunting vocals remain a staple of this new release, there are so many moments that feel like he is working towards something so brilliant and original, he couldn't wait to let us hear it. In a sense, 'Before' is acting as an appetiser to his most ambitious meal to date, offering up small morsels of music masterpieces that will continue to cement him as one of the most inventive musicians working today.

Although it only lasts a measly 17-minutes, the 'Before' EP is altogether some of the most captivating and engaging works we have ever heard from him. James Blake never feels like one who could ever lose his focus at this point, and this new collection is a testament to his ever-shifting motions through the new music landscape.

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