James Blake: Klavierwerke (R&S)
Klavierwerke is perhaps the most sensitive of James Blake’s 2010 EPs that I’ve heard. It continues his explorations of bent, manipulated R&B with references to hip hop and other areas of electronic music without ever fully nodding in any given direction. One vague point of distinction for this EP is that it is somehow more smoldering and seductive than the others I’ve heard… I think that’s more in the spaces between, though, than the sounds themselves. The common thread of piano samples helps unify these tracks and make them feel like parts of a whole as well (as the title suggests). The real standout here is “I Only Know (What I Know Now)” and its broken piano samples, punctuated with vocal snippets (often re-pitched well out of normal range) and a slow, persistent acoustic bass kick that anchors its other various percussive flourishes and details. Another consistent top-notch effort from James Blake, a highlight for me in 2010 as the year comes to a close.