James Blake – ‘Digital Lion’

He may still look sad in pictures but James Blake isn’t just mewing any more

He might briefly have been a laughing stock on the blogosphere for his attack on how dubstep has mutated in the US (he called it “a pissing competition” for a “frat-boy market”), but UK producer James Blake has still had an amazing 12 months. He’s had an audience with Kanye West, hung with his idol Joni Mitchell and got a girlfriend. The Londoner has also recorded what promises to be a strong follow-up to 2011’s self-titled debut; last week at the ICA, the 24-year-old joked his second album ‘Overgrown’ (out in April) is “much better than the last one”. ‘Digital Lion’ (a title that’s a dig at those blogs?) shows Blake’s not afraid to mix the different styles of music he’s been experimenting with since his student days. A collaboration with Brian Eno, it’s inspired in parts by their joint favourite gospel record, ‘Peace Be Still’. And it starts slow – real slow – with Blake singing “digital lion” over and over. There’s a moment’s lull where all you hear is a crackle, before a beat throbs, effects patter in and out and the vocals are looped over a deep “hmmmm hmmmm hmmmm”. Towards the end it really gets going as drumbeats scatter and Blake sings the title again like he’s having the best time in a club. Yes, he still looks sad in his pictures, but James Blake isn’t just mewing any more. That’s a good thing.

Siân Rowe