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Whilst listening to music the other day, I found myself thinking ‘Wow this is a really great artist’. I’ve often recommended music to people to listen to and always seem to use the phrase- ‘They are a really great artist!” It’s that go-to phrase that so many use when talking about musicians they love. However, this then got me thinking – how can someone tell what justifies a great artist? There isn’t exactly a set of guidelines or criteria to go by and there most certainly isn’t a formal checklist of any kind. So how exactly does one determine a great artist?

James Blake

James Blake is not just an artist for the people, but an artist for art itself. His new EP 200 Press is deliciously experimental and pushes his own creative licence.

This question is obviously objective to each individual, yet for me it’s all about evolution. An artist that has the ability, to evolve and revolutionise their own musical art form, whilst still retaining elements that give them their unique and distinctive edge is something not many can successfully achieve. This for me is one of the things on my own subjective checklist to what makes an artist great.

Another point on my checklist is an artist’s resilience to outside pressure and their ability to keep producing music that is pure and true to them as an artist. An artist that ignores the bad press that their newest venture or musical experiment is nothing like their previous work and therefore is terrible on nothing more then that basis alone, yet still continues to push the boundaries – that is ‘a really great artist’. James Blake is an artist that fits not only one but both, folds perfectly – if not exceeds it.

The twenty-six year old London born and bred musician is an electronic music producer and singer-songwriter. There are three different sides to Blake as an artist: the first venture is James Blake – the post-dubstep and lush vocal artist; the second undertaking is, ‘EP James Blake’ which portrays his more musically eccentric and experimental side; and the third venture for Blake is Harmonimix.

James Blake’s EP, 200 Press, was released on December 11 and contains around twenty minutes of deep electronics, high-pitched vocals and piano breaks that combine to create a fantastically experimental and musically limit-pushing EP. His newest venture fits more under the ‘EP James Blake’ spectrum and opens with the track 200 Press. It opens with squeal like vocals combined with looped synth the track then plunges into a mix of experimentally dominant and commanding sounds.

There is a real looping and repetitive theme to this song with not only that loop but from the use of the lyric “Gather ’round the beat like a campfire/ Singin’ folk songs, but not no ‘Kumbaya my Lord’”. Whilst not the most abstract and experimental track on the EP, 200 Press is a great introductory song, that provides you a taste for what’s about to come from James Blake.

The next track is 200 Pressure. This track really steps it up in the experimentation and creative insanity but it is definitely welcomed! Starting with a mixture of glitched beats and then dives head first into this cocktail of screams and frenzied drumming patterns. Whilst this track seems to throw everything at you, you’re able to really see the creative experimentation here taken and worked to push the boundaries.

Building It Still really showcases piano, which starts the track quite slowly and this slowness repeats throughout. However the piano showcase really comes in its segmented pop sections. This piano-pop in and out of the track around the high, angelic vocals mix together it is as if they are both dancing around each other. The track finishes with the sounds of a stopwatch ticking as if the track on its completion is leading you into the next. It’s a really different way to finish a song but guides the listener into the next.

The EP finishes with Words That We Both Know. This track is completely different to the previous on the EP. In fact at first, it almost feels disjointed from the rest of the EP and should be a stand-alone track. However once you have a second listen you realise that it is quite beautiful. All this tune is is a poem with piano in the background. However it’s this simplicity that actually creates such beauty. The lyrics are so poetic that you don’t need anything other then the piano, and anything else would overcrowd the beautiful simplicity. At first I found it disjointed but now I find it the standout track from the entire EP that combines everything together!

James Blake isn’t just an artist for the people; he is an artist for an artist and as a result is constantly working to create music that pushes boundaries, limits and his creative license. I hope this continues as you never know what you’ll get next from him.

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December 29, 2014

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