The electronic scene took over Montreal this past Saturday night, as the city was host to a few concerts from electronic DJs and producers, including Alesso, and Kavinsky. There’s a good chance those venues were rocking with loud, booming party tunes, sending everyone into a tizzy, and leaving bodies dripping with sweat from jumping around and wilding out.
Meanwhile, another electronic act, critically-acclaimed English producer and singer-songwriter James Blake stopped by Metropolis on his recent tour, accompanied by yet another electronic musician, Nosaj Thing. In comparison to the aforementioned DJs, Blake’s set was calmer, warmer and filled with bliss. This isn’t to say that Alesso and Kavinsky’s sets weren’t as good, but there’s a good chance one’s deodorant had to do less work on the human body after Blake’s show.
For those unfamiliar with Blake, the London-born triple-threat producer, singer, and songwriter has been making the rounds in the music scene since 2009. One of Blake’s first EP’s CMYK, consisted of samples from artists like Kelis and Aaliyah over his own rhythms. Sampling and looping are necessities for Blake, whether he fiddles with his own or other musicians’ voices.
Blake began to achieve recognition and success with his cover of Feist’s “Limit To Your Love” that appeared on his self-titled debut album in 2011. This year, Blake released his second album, Overgrown, an album that recently won the Mercury Music Prize for best album from the United Kingdom and Ireland. Blake has collaborated with artists such as Bon Iver, Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, up-and-coming rap sensation Chance the Rapper, and has even worked in the studio with Drake.
Blake’s set was a mixture of old and new songs from his repertoire, going as far back as “CMYK”, the title track from his CMYK EP, mixed with favourites from his last two albums. Blake’s soothing and tantalizing vocals over his tracks were on point, and enhanced the intimacy of the show. The emotion that poured over from his vocals and lyrics even got into the crowd, as a lot of couples started cuddling and dancing together.
Among the highlights of the show were “Voyeur,” track off Overgrown. This live version sounded more intense than its studio counterpart, and was probably one more beat drop away from getting the crowd to jump around and dance. The live version could easily fit in a house producer or DJ’s setlist. But of course, Blake’s charm comes through on his quieter and more quaint songs, where his vocals intertwine beautifully with his samples and beats.
Blake drew a lot of applause for songs like “A Case Of You,” mostly because of a particular lyric where he references Canada. Others included two old favourites from his self-titled album, “Wilhelms Scream” and “Limit To Your Love,” as well as “Retrograde,” where most of the ladies in the house swooned at his looped hums throughout the song. Finally, for Blake’s encore, he played another old tune, “Measurements,” from his debut.
Blake was a delight to the standing-room crowd at Metropolis, thanks to his warm and beautiful vocals, minimal but outstanding beats and his fan favourites. Blake is a talent, who should be on your playlist if he isn’t already. His warmth and emotion is heart-melting, and will tug at the heartstrings, or at the very least come up in a sampled beat from your favourite artist.