Having cultivated a style and sound so utterly his own over a handful of releases and remixes, it's not really a major surprise to see James Blake's name associated with the Hessle Audio label. The imprint's output sits firmly at the progressively lush end of the dubstep spectrum. After his debut single release on Untold's Hemlock label, Air & Lack Thereof, it was patently obvious that Blake had a command of melody and sine waves that no one else out there had really touched on fully; combining his own brand of insanely powerful bass drops with prominent harmonic scales and heavily treated vocals.
While the three tracks contained on this 12-inch are a little more morose and sparser than Blake's breakout remix of Untold's "Stop What You're Doing," they're still just as fiercely inventive. Reminiscent of his work with Airhead—the sublimely minimal "Pembroke" and "Lock in a Lion" saw a release on Brainmath recently—"The Bells Sketch" flickers with the echoed shrills of delayed strings contorting behind low end palpitations that stretch and slice their way up into a slow stomp, decorated with playfully pitched vocals, erratic jazz piano basslines and flecks of pure G-funk synthesizer.
"Buzzard and Kestrel" is more lighthearted; taking its cue from lounge piano and Outkast-esque snare patterns, it dances through Blake's weirdo voice play until he eventually squeaks out his distorted lead synthesizer riff. Squalling his melodies like this is definitely a trademark; no other producer seemingly has the jazz sensibility, the knowledge of harmonics or the balls to combine it with seething sections of bass pressure. His rhythm on the final track, "Give a Man a Rod," clomps like the galloping drums did on his "Sparing With Horses" track (the flip to his debut single) but it's the warmth and surging of his pads that maintain interest. Deliciously weird, off-key and superbly layered, James Blake's debut outing on Hessle Audio manages to succinctly justify the hype his work is now receiving.
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Tracklist: James Blake - The Bells Sketch A The Bells Sketch
B1 Buzzard and Kestrel
B2 Give a Man a Rod