Since his eponymous 2011 debut, James Blake has mesmerized the music world with his dark, ethereal blend of R&B, ambient, hip-hop and electronic. A true minimalist, he has a profound knack for creating unique musical atmospheres using the least possible sounds, which serve as a backdrop for his cold and deeply vulnerable lyrics. His trademark sound has won the acclaim of critics and fans alike, earning him a Mercury Prize, a Grammy nomination and collaborations with some of the most popular artists of the music industry—even as he has grown more experimental with each successive release.
Assume Form may be the first record where we see James Blake’s fame, and his newfound love (he’s been uncharacteristically public about his relationship with actress Jameela Jamil), beginning to affect his art. He enlists the talents of a star-studded cast of guest artists, including beats by Metro Boomin, singing by Travis Scott, Moses Sumney and Rosalía, and a rare verse by the elusive André 3000.
Blake’s usual moods of loneliness and fallibility are complemented by moments of confidence (“Mile High”), tender love (“Can’t Believe the Way We Flow”) and even whimsy (“I’ll Come Too”). Famously introverted in the past, James Blake now carries an air of assuredness and positivity that we haven’t heard before, and it seems to have everything to do with his newfound status in life. In other words, James Blake continues to grow as an artist—only this time, it’s personal.