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Scoping out small-time musicians in the Big Apple and some insight into favorite surfacing songs and artists of Recorded Music student Veronica Wyman.

Contact veronicawyman.bsr@gmail.com for press/ coverage inquiries.

Last Thursday, James Blake crossed paths with Austra at the Music Hall of Williamsburg after each playing in separate venues the night before. Blake entered the stage after a cosmic performance by Austra filled with arm pulses and full, booming vocals. 
Unassuming and meek, Blake took a seat at his Nordic digital piano and began the set with “Enough Thunder,” the title song of his new six-track EP. Soon after, he moved into a soft a cappella rendition of “I Never Learnt to Share,” delayed wafts of his voice floating through the crowd as the song took form. Blake first looped his dry intro vocals and then brought the verse in an octave lower, eyebrows twitching in deep concentration as he moved his voice back and forth between left and right stereos. Yellow strobe lights kicked in, and the crowd was filled with the ambience of Blake’s haunting cries, the low hum of the bass rumbling beneath their feet. The soulful tone to his vocals never ceases to surprise me, no matter how many times I remind myself that this lanky British 23-year-old has the voice of a black man. 
Soon after, his session players joined him (who oddly enough looked like carbon copies of Blake himself) to move into his springtime release “CMYK.” The vocal samples of “look I found her red coat,” entered the arrangement much later than usual, building a new introductory layer of tension you won’t find on the digital version. Blake provided his bestial falsetto screams and predatory growls that were followed by an unexpected massive sub-bass that triggered a cathartic impulse from the crowd.
Blake also performed another newly released track, “Once We All Agree,” that he said was composed in a “weird Belgium hotel, which explains its dirty sound.” He finished the set with the HypeM favorite “The Wilhelm Scream,” earning him a bouquet of lavender flowers from an audience member that he accepted with an awkward chuckle and classic smirk. 
For his encore performance, Blake returned announcing, “I’m gonna end this the way I started,” taking a seat at the piano and playing a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” At first thought, this song selection may seem inappropriate for an electronic-dub artist, but it was suiting for the calmed energy and poignant minimalism that Blake brings to the stage. After his piano solo, Blake took a bow, gave a full-out glorious, gap-toothed smile accompanied by a thumbs up, and left the stage. 
During the set, Blake announced that regrettably, this would be his last show in New York for a while. Last Saturday in Philadelphia put an end to his North American tour, and his live performances have only improved throughout the fall as he’s hopped around the country. If nothing else, Blake’s live show achieved two things that his records and EP compilations cannot: the ability to improvise, transforming a song from high snare hits to low-end rumbles via an extended outro and allow the audience to visualize the organic layering of his song structure and progression. 
What makes James Blake stand out in this synth-age is the duality of innovative electronic artist and gospel-voiced jazz pianist. In a time of bedroom-producers that will throw a bass line on anything to topple 140 tracks already on their session, Blake knows when to implement jittering percussion or fragmented synthesizers and when to isolate sculpted piano leads. 
As far as I can tell, only he knows where he’s going next, but I can say this with relaxed confidence because I fully trust his prodigious genius. 
Photo by Isaac Hughes. 
isaachgreen@gmail.comhttp://www.isaachughes.com

Last Thursday, James Blake crossed paths with Austra at the Music Hall of Williamsburg after each playing in separate venues the night before. Blake entered the stage after a cosmic performance by Austra filled with arm pulses and full, booming vocals. 

Unassuming and meek, Blake took a seat at his Nordic digital piano and began the set with “Enough Thunder,” the title song of his new six-track EP. Soon after, he moved into a soft a cappella rendition of “I Never Learnt to Share,” delayed wafts of his voice floating through the crowd as the song took form. Blake first looped his dry intro vocals and then brought the verse in an octave lower, eyebrows twitching in deep concentration as he moved his voice back and forth between left and right stereos. Yellow strobe lights kicked in, and the crowd was filled with the ambience of Blake’s haunting cries, the low hum of the bass rumbling beneath their feet. The soulful tone to his vocals never ceases to surprise me, no matter how many times I remind myself that this lanky British 23-year-old has the voice of a black man. 

Soon after, his session players joined him (who oddly enough looked like carbon copies of Blake himself) to move into his springtime release “CMYK.” The vocal samples of “look I found her red coat,” entered the arrangement much later than usual, building a new introductory layer of tension you won’t find on the digital version. Blake provided his bestial falsetto screams and predatory growls that were followed by an unexpected massive sub-bass that triggered a cathartic impulse from the crowd.

Blake also performed another newly released track, “Once We All Agree,” that he said was composed in a “weird Belgium hotel, which explains its dirty sound.” He finished the set with the HypeM favorite “The Wilhelm Scream,” earning him a bouquet of lavender flowers from an audience member that he accepted with an awkward chuckle and classic smirk. 

For his encore performance, Blake returned announcing, “I’m gonna end this the way I started,” taking a seat at the piano and playing a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” At first thought, this song selection may seem inappropriate for an electronic-dub artist, but it was suiting for the calmed energy and poignant minimalism that Blake brings to the stage. After his piano solo, Blake took a bow, gave a full-out glorious, gap-toothed smile accompanied by a thumbs up, and left the stage. 

During the set, Blake announced that regrettably, this would be his last show in New York for a while. Last Saturday in Philadelphia put an end to his North American tour, and his live performances have only improved throughout the fall as he’s hopped around the country. If nothing else, Blake’s live show achieved two things that his records and EP compilations cannot: the ability to improvise, transforming a song from high snare hits to low-end rumbles via an extended outro and allow the audience to visualize the organic layering of his song structure and progression. 

What makes James Blake stand out in this synth-age is the duality of innovative electronic artist and gospel-voiced jazz pianist. In a time of bedroom-producers that will throw a bass line on anything to topple 140 tracks already on their session, Blake knows when to implement jittering percussion or fragmented synthesizers and when to isolate sculpted piano leads. 

As far as I can tell, only he knows where he’s going next, but I can say this with relaxed confidence because I fully trust his prodigious genius. 

Photo by Isaac Hughes. 

isaachgreen@gmail.com
http://www.isaachughes.com


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10.8.2011 |
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