Saturday Afternoon Artist: James Blake

22 year-old singer, keyboardist, producer James Blake put out his first full-length record this February.  As a kid he played piano. And in college took music classes at Goldsmith University, where he first got into electronic and dubstep music.  Then he started DJing around London and posting remixes of other people’s songs online under a stage name, Harmonimix.

His first single, “Air and Lack Thereof,” came from his experimenting with making loops and adding his own keys and vocals to them.   When the single was put out on the label Hemlock, James was invited to perform with electronic outfit Mt. Kimble for their live shows.

In 2010, he released three more EP’s and got good reviews from alternative music websites like Pitchfork and Stereogum.  Most of his work featured squishy, warm electronic beats and soulful vocal samples. The production style was innovative, fresh.  But it was when he took the big step into leading the songs himself by singing that the world started to really take notice.  He still has lots of room to grow as a songwriter, many of his originals feeling like big progressions that never quite reach their hook potential, but the cover of the Feist song “Limit to Your Love” is sheer perfection.  A totally new balance of soul and electronics.

Knowing that he started his music career doing remixes,it was surprising to see that James Blake was annoyed with getting so many requests to remix his songs. He told Pitchfork, “Remixing is like musical prostitution. I think it’s really cynical and vacuous; I’m batting offers away like flies. It never used to be like that. Ray Charles didn’t need five remixes. The song speaks for itself.”

James Blake is coming to town (the show sold out almost immediately), playing the  excellent, small venue the Tractor Tavern in Ballard on May 19th.  He plays the same day live on KEXP at 1pm.

Michele Myers spins every Saturday on KEXP from 3-6pm. Every week she brings you a featured Saturday Afternoon Artist and plays three songs in-a-row from them. She also hosts Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 6-9am on KEXP’s sister NPR station WNYE 91.5FM in New York City and is the producer/creator of KEXP Documentaries.

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