James Blake, the British producer and singer-songwriter, is one of the most promising artists working today. Though only 26, his first two albums—James Blake and Overgrown—were stunningly mature entries that traded in a sound “somewhere between avant-garde dance music and blue-eyed soul.” Blake has been debuting some new tunes while in residency at BBC Radio 1, and the latest such song, “Building It Still,” is a particularly strong reminder of his talent.
The track is largely instrumental, which isn’t surprising: even when Blake employs his crystalline vocals, they’re rarely delivered straight, and instead spliced, mangled, and reconfigured into melancholic blips. But he doesn’t deconstruct for deconstruction’s sake: in fact, to my ear, he’s one of the few artists who manage to make silence propulsive. When Blake “drops” the beat, he does so literally, removing all sound entirely, and these little lacunae give his songs a unique, thoughtful force that only further engages the audience.