Best Of British 2010: Best Dance Single - James Blake ‘CMYK’ | DJMag.com Skip to main content

Best Of British 2010: Best Dance Single - James Blake ‘CMYK’

No Limitations - James Blake’s Neon Future Funk

“If anyone is hating on it, it’s evident they’re not really behind me as an artist, they’re just behind certain releases. That’s not necessarily unexpected, there are times when you don’t like certain aspects of an artist’s stuff,” says the heavily-hyped James Blake, holding forth on the response to his new, major label-signed  breakthrough single ‘Limit To Your Love’, a track that has seen him catapulted from virtual unknown to performing on primetime T4 in a matter of months. “I know there are people who won’t like everything I do, but I know there are a lot of people who have allowed me to go places that I’ve gone to and let me spread my wings a bit. And those people who don’t aren’t necessarily any less valid, it’s cool with me.”

A remarkably mature and magnanimous attitude for such a fresh-faced new producer, but James Blake really doesn’t need to shout about his incandescent music. For while ‘Limit To Your Love’ revealed a hitherto unseen string to his musical bow — a kind of Jeff Buckley piano croon with added sub bass — it’s his early, highly musical neon dubstep beats that brought him to DJmag’s attention. And nowhere was this better realised than on the highly original, space-station R&B of the iridescent ‘CMYK’, which surfaced on the long-standing R&S in mid 2010. Perhaps the best example of 2010’s chimerical musical mixtures, Blake’s use of a classic, chopped ‘n’ screwed R&B vocal sample blended with hyper-colour melodic electronic textures and stepping beats really sounded like nothing else. Certainly not dubstep, but it’s a still a scene that Blake has been aligned with, he considers himself part of, and which he’s actively engaged in pushing forward, beyond the one dimensional world of wobble and into something as colourful as the title ‘CMYK’ would suggest. Despite its game changing majesty, which has already spawned its copyists, James is humble and surprised he’s clinched the award for Best Single.
“It was a bit surprising! There’s been a lot of really good things coming out this year. I’m very flattered obviously and it’s really nice for the future, it’s nice to know that what I’m doing is being received well.”

Classically trained, and a whiz pounding the keys of a piano as much the pads on a sampler, it’s Blake’s musicality that has set him apart, ever since he first turned heads with the squelchy dub-funk of first single ‘Air And Lack Thereof’, which first surfaced on Hemlock in 2009.
“When I first started, all I wanted to do was make dubstep,” relates James. “But when I was doing that, I wanted to make sounds that I’d never heard before. They had to sound original in the context of what I’d heard. If they didn’t I always scrapped them. In a sense I guess I did set out to do something different.
“I did grades on the piano and was always into improvising above everything else. Which is probably why all of my tracks are pretty off the cuff chords and things I did in the moment, they’re not really composed in a methodical style.”

His distinctively different take on dubstep and future beats, mixed with that recently introduced singing voice, have made Blake hot property indeed — with a more credible, but still accessible evolution of dubstep that sits well with purists and dilettantes alike — but despite an imminent album of experimental synth ‘n’ voice for A&M, he insists he’s not tempering his sound for anyone, mixing his more singer songwriter based ambitions with bleeding edge lazer-guided electronic instrumentals built for the dancefloor.
“I’m still going to be releasing dancefloor 12s, and I’m still excited about that sort of music. I’m so double sided in the way I write — sometimes I’ll write a song at the piano, sometimes I’ll write just a beat, and I’ll sit in a dark room and listen to a beat all night. That’s what I’ve been doing recently. I like to switch things up a bit. There will be some interesting things coming in the New Year that will be far away from the album and hopefully quite exciting for the people that I hope I excited in the first place.”
Despite his overwhelming and vertiginous rise, James is taking it all in his stride.

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  The Other Nominees

Jamie Jones ‘Ruckus’Ramadanman & Midland ‘Your Words Matter’Tim Green ‘Old Sunshine’Deadboy ‘If U Want Me’