Review: Assume Form by James Blake

Assume Form by James BlakePerhaps the best clues as to what James Blake’s latest album is about are in the name and album art. Previous releases saw the visage of James be either hazy or distant (or animated); this time, we see him surprisingly up close, albeit still with stark lighting. And then there’s the name: Assume Form. It does evoke images of an alien landing on this planet and putting on a disguise so as not to be caught. And admit it, James’ music has been, despite varying degrees of accessibility and loads of musicality, best described as… weird. Not this time. Assume Form is perhaps his most accessible record to date, completing his transition from vaguely dubstep-y pop to what we now call alternative R&B, and to boot, it’s all got this slight hue of optimism on it. But it doesn’t feel at all comfortable, not yet; I’m convinced it’s my fault, though, me being used to James in isolation rather than, say, have all these collaborators on board. (Rosalía’s guest appearance on “Barefoot in the Park” almost steals the show, though.) But you get used to it after a while, and by the end you’re kind of into the worldview. Will the next album progress this route further? [NB]3/5

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