By Gabe Kanengiser
Last week, James Blake gave the world an EP to endlessly ponder. Six more tracks of pure musical integrity; twenty-five minutes and thirty seconds of assurance that the direction of music is heading the right way. The songs are deep valleys in which anything is found. Blake’s Enough Thunder EP came out October 7, and succeeds in the same way that his full-length LP, James Blake did—it doesn’t force a specification of genre. The music is thrilling as electronic, avant-garde, and alternative; pop-influenced, innovative, and unique.
The first time I heard James Blake, I was whipping around the Big Rock Candy Mountain in Utah. The sparse shrubbery with its dull green color that stood out amongst the calm brown land had transformed and was now lush and densely populated by growing trees. The earthly colors were made more vibrant by fleeting rain. Meanwhile, James Blake was my soundtrack and his genius was readily realized.
Blake maintains his songwriting and craft on this follow-up. Enough Thunder begins with the song, “Once We All Agree,” a song with a recurring owl-like “hooting” sound that sets the scene in nature. Like most of his work, the second song, “We Might Feel Unsound,” has components that are electronically driven, and his intermittent melodious phrases bear the depths of traditional songwriting and composition. “We Might Feel Unsound” coincidentally also evokes “the sound” of which he doesn’t speak. In its first two tracks, Enough Thunder acknowledges that there are times when people or, as Blake puts it, “we,” do not align.
Blake’s collaboration with Bon Iver entitled “Fall Creek Boys Choir” gives a distinctive light and clouded rumble that is repeated throughout the song. Blazing harmonies and the production work that Blake has become famous for provide the ground for these to two artists to create something of elastic beauty. However, there is a different collaboration on this album that provides the most powerful track.
There is no confusion as to whether the prolific songwriters and composers of the past centuries have influenced Blake, though at the forefront of the group is Joni Mitchell. His cover of “A Case of You” will thrive as both a cover and a new piece of music. Where others fail in covering the greats (i.e. Mitchell, Dylan) Blake succeeds. The song does not itch to be heard in Mitchell’s sweeping voice or her affectations or her arrangement. The song is well suited for Blake’s intonation, and the song delightfully engages new meaning; a new meaning that is in line with the rest of the EP.
Overall, Enough Thunder is a heavenly sign for Blake fans: his sound is intact and is still trans-genre. There is no need to worry that an age of prolific songwriting and composition has come or will come to a stunning end any time soon as long as the rest of the world’s talented contributors follow along a similar path as Blake, utilizing technology to enhance and never to detract from meaning. At the very least, we can be excited for future output from this twenty-two year old giant.