James Blake | Assume Form | Album Review

Polydor Records
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The sample-based electronic music producer and vocalist James Blake returns with his latest full-length release, Assume Form. With a wide variety of instrumentations and song structures, Assume Form is gentle, soothing, and contemplative. 

More than anything, Blake demonstrates his mastery of musical spacing on this record. Songs like the title track and “Are You in Love?” contain soft pianos coupled with mid-tempo trap beats, an intriguing combination that leaves room for Blake’s sweet-tempered vocal melodies to fill out the song. 

This also contributes to the breathtaking production of the record, leaving the listener to hear the full extent of every tone and phrase. The sound quality is top tier with each track bringing forth warm, refined tones, like the sampled vocal layers on tracks like “Can’t Believe The Way We Flow” and “I’ll Come Too.” The trap beats are crisp and clear as well and mercifully not too overbearing. 

Assume Form is also a deeply romantic effort lyrically with tracks like “Into the Red” and the aforementioned “Can’t Believe The Way We Flow” discussing relationships and former loves that match the sweetness of the instrumentals. 

The only moments on the album that fall flat are the features from Metro Boomin, Travis Scott, and a couple others. These tracks tend to forego the smooth production in favor of lukewarm trap bangers that are ultimately faceless and underwhelming, particularly on the track “Mile High.” That’s not to say all the features have no place, as the ROSALIA feature on the track “Barefoot In The Park” adds a new, glossy vocal layer on top of Blake’s immaculate timbre. 

Overall, Assume Form is a mostly memorable record with an impressive attention to detail and musical ingenuity that will surely resonate with many listeners and serve as a highlight release of the year.

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