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Pianist James Blake Shapes 'The Colour' in Follow-Up to Sophomore Breakthrough

By Philip Trapp on May 09, 2016 01:02 PM EDT

Already the most imperative electronic music discovery of the early "Tens", English pianist and singer-songwriter James Blake captured the zeitgeist last week thanks to his recent collaborations with Beyoncé on her culture-permeating bustle, Lemonade.

The promotional timing attendant, Blake thusly dropped the long-awaited follow-up to Overgrown, his masterfully revelatory second album. Taking a page from Bey's playbook, The Colour in Anything was surprise-released on Friday at midnight.

Overgrown proved to be one of 2013's most pleasant arrivals, showcasing the singer's nimbly interweaving melodies and silky key work atop sparse, prickly percussion. Thanks in part to the poignant, Blade Runner-style synths and operatic inflection of lead single "Retrograde," the album won that year's Mercury Prize and landed Blake a Best New Artist nomination at the Grammys.

The Colour in Anything continues the musician's slow jam takeover, packed with 17 tracks of Blake's keyboard-driven lamentations. Opener "Radio Silence" addresses the singer's three-year absence, of which he explained said downtime to Pitchfork:

"When you're living an unstructured life, you can quickly develop self-doubt. You haven't learned the same mechanisms for keeping yourself busy or active, and I slipped into a habit of being quite unproductive. I was making music, but I did all kinds of procrastination... so I spent a year trying to improve my mental state. And then, just by doing that, I ended up writing a lot of the best music on the record."

Politely namedropping electro forebearers The xx to The Guardian, Blake digested the recent downtempo revolution presently spearheaded by his lovelorn anthems:

"The xx set the precedent and I set the further precedent, and the music world has bent to that sound," he says. "It's like the opposite of punk, isn't it? I got them all to shut up." He laughs. "I've subdued a generation. That will be my legacy."

Blake plays the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles and New York's Webster Hall next week, followed by a London homecoming show on Monday, May 23. He'll then spend the summer criss-crossing the globe for the season's festival circuit.

The Colour in Anything is out now on Polydor Records.

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TagsJames Blake, The Colour in Anything, Overgrown, Beyonce, Lemonade, The xx