It must be part of a music writer competence to be able to acknowledge an artist despite the fact it never broke through his heart.
Assuming this is also valid for a music photographer with blogging ambitions (me), time has come to post James Blake set shot last year and, more difficult, find some words to go with it.
I don’t like to publish a set of images about an artist without words. Internet is plenty and I like reading something about a gallery when I came across it, so I believe my reader would like that too.
I basically used 100 words to say nothing. Good try.
James Blake has been with few doubts (mine) a 2011 phenomenon. Since BBC voted it at the second place for the Sound of 2011 poll, his rise has been unstoppable.
Marginal observation, number one was Jessie J, number three the Vaccines.
If I had to follow BBC I’d give up music and start collecting butterflies. Thankfully there have been options.
The release of James Blake, his self title debut, last february, gave not only the music writers material to dance about architecture, which is pretty common. That record gave the music world enough inspiration and creativity to give birth to a plethora of albums blossoming by his debut.
Something not that common, must be acknowledged.
Who reads liveon35mm knows I am not a lover of electronica and sounds created on computers.
I am getting old, I am close-minded, I am conservative. I’ve been insulted with any sort of English and Italian word because of this.
Point is, I still haven’t found a music that is able to touch my feelings which is not composed through analogical instruments.
I appreciate some electronica, I prefer it when it gets extreme and is as far as possible from 80s and dance.
Nevertheless if it is old guitar rock’n’roll, or thoughtful songwriting I feel better.
To write this few lines I gave Blake another chance. I listened to the album several times. With scarce success.
I am still not getting the balance of dubstep, electronica, soul and Bon Iver he puts into his record.
After the third or fourth repeat of James Blake deluxe edition I needed an injection of SteveAlbinian Rock’n’Roll and I spotified the entire Slint discography.
I will do a surgical intervention here, to split the music from the singing.
James Blake Music is a balance of minimalism, electronica, samples and beat that underline his background as a producer.
Nothing very new, this blends go back in time several years. Even a totally ignorant person on dubstep (me) and a pretty much virgin on ambient (still me) can hear these influences. From Portishead to the cool bars of East and South London from pop minimalism to Feist, whose cover Limit To Your Love make him famous, Blake work is a revised mix of this sort of sound.
The magic mix comes with Blake voice. He loves soul. No doubt about this. I don’t. Soul it is probably the only other genre of music, with electronica and reggae that I can tolerate for no more than 15 minutes. I guess it explains many things.
Reviews keep citing Stevie Wonder as an obvious reference to me it is all about Justin Vernon and Bon Iver circa Emma Forever, Ago.
The combination of the coolest electronic music from South London, with a shaved version of Justin Vernon‘s intimate singing, is the secret of his success, especially in the second most trendy neighbourhood in the world after New York Greenwich Village: East London.
Those who don’t sympathize with mountains, bears and beards will sympathise with James Blake songs as much as some flanned shirt beardy man from Colorado loves Bon Iver.
Expectedly James Blake music soundtracked London throughout the year. Platoons of youngsters with moustaches, sunglasses and large headphones squeezed into any of his appearances.
His album has been ripped into any iTunes playlist and played at the opening of all the vintage photo exhibition happened in Shoreditch.
I met Blake live a couple of times. This set is from the Field Day festival happened in Victoria Park in August.
His fans packed the tent well before the concert started and stayed till the end despite the gzillions of simultaneous shows going on in the surroundings.
People were hypnotized by the combination of vocals and piano. I wasn’t.
I walked out before the end to chase the next interesting act beginning her set in the next stage: Anna Calvi, the other hype of 2011.
For James Blake as much as for Anna Calvi, history will tell if I am wrong and their fire will keep burning or I was right and both will vanish.
The feeling I have is that it won’t be their fault.
The second album is surely going to be the key event for both, but the consumption of music nowadays is so fast, genres change so quickly, people taste varies from one album of the month to the next album of the month that before Blake finishes his next collection of songs his fans may be heading to a heavy metal gig.
It was plenty of photographers shooting James Blake. It was a festival which has loads of shooters and he was a key act.
Three songs in such conditions require a quick understanding of the situation and mutual respect between photographers.
Blake sits behind keys, which means position fixed. He sings, which means mic often covering the face.
There was a double set of backlights forcing the composition in a symmetrical way.
All summed up translates in: there was basically one spot where the right photo was possible.
Assuming promoters will never understand that dropping the three songs rule would help the artist as well as photographers with better images, the only way to shoot this show was to queue. Just one photographer staying there longer would be enough to block someone else getting their photos.
Tip is: if you are a photographer, don’t only be respectful for the artists on stage, keep an eye on the situation and on your colleagues and let them shoot too. Selfishness doesn’t pay. It can be your good chance one time but you’ll find a gig where your spot is the wrong one and would love to find a kind friend next to you.