James Blake’s ‘Assume Form’ blends fluttering electronic and hip hop stylings into an expression of love

James Blake’s ‘Assume Form’ blends fluttering electronic and hip hop stylings into an expression of love

Words by Jonathan Reynoso

The latest album from the famed British producer is a love letter to a blossoming new relationship. The fluttering beats mimic that of his own heart, happily thumping with every pulsating melody. A careful balance of soft electronics and rattling trap beats craft the sound of Assume Form.

The synthetic, soul-flavoured artist has become a crossover hit for fans of indie music and hip hop. Blake has worked with a diverse set of artists including Travis Scott, Oneohtrix Point Never, Kendrick Lamar, and Mount Kimbie. The impressive guest list grabbed the attention of the media and listeners alike. The track ‘Mile High’ features Travis Scott and famed trap producer Metro Boomin. These two are used to grand, explosive ventures, however, they simmer down for a hazy, dizzying beat. Scott gently whispers his verse while Boomin and Blake carefully guide the song into the night.

Metro Boomin returns on ‘Tell Them’ — this time featuring avant-crooner Moses Sumney. There’s a gorgeous Middle Eastern flavour towards the backend of the track. Blake and Spanish singer Rosalía duet on ‘Barefoot In The Park’ which features a subtle reggaeton beat. Finally, Blake enlists André 3000 for ‘Where’s The Catch?’. Anxiety is up to the brim when Blake questions his new, loved-up situation. Can you really have too much of a good thing? What’s the catch here? This song feels underwhelming and muddy, though.

The songwriter is currently dating actress Jameela Jamil of The Good Place fame. A lot of the lyrics on Assume Form are dedicated to their relationship. “I’ll Come Too” is a sweet little love song that gushes over its beloved subject. Blake sings: “I’ve thrown my hat in the ring/I’ve got nothing to lose/With you, with you, with you/I’m in that kind of mood.” Blake is happy here and even teases a bit on the song ‘Power On’ with the amazing lyric: “Let’s go home and talk shit about everyone.” Now doesn’t that sound like a great evening?

As the album winds down, the final tracks ‘Don’t Miss It’ and ‘Lullaby For My Insomniac’ finishes things off in quiet bliss. The former track has a noticeable Radiohead flavour to it and the sparse electronics follow a commanding piano. The ghostly vocals that hang in the background of the former are reminiscent of Radiohead’s The King Of Limbs. The final track is about someone who can’t sleep. Blake gently reminds you that sleep is inevitable. So don’t fight it. This could be how it was when he fell in love. “It’s not a failure if you can’t,” he says. “In any case, you will at some point.” Let’s hope we do, Blake.