James Blake’s Assume Form is his fourth studio album, released on 18 January 2019. Somehow, Blake has managed to produce an album that is more upbeat than his last, but radically more vulnerable than anything else he has ever written.
Blake blends hip hop, high production, and pop, in his destruction of the masculinity/ vulnerability dichotomy, in twelve songs. Blake writes of the song, “I’m just talking about how I feel now” (James Blake: Learning to Share, Dazed). Yet, lyrics such as “Power On”‘s “I thought I might be better dead, but I was wrong” are both a reflection on the past and a conviction on the future.
“Power On” is undoubtedly the strongest track on the album with lyrics such as “drop the pin on the mood that you’re in”. The album brings together collaborations with artists from different genres and languages to reside in moments of mindfulness, speaking directly on these moods and feelings. Although the album is directly romantic, it’s somewhat spiritual in its commentary on time and the self.
In “I’ll Come Too”, the more surreal and dream-like tones of “I’m in that kinda mood” make us realise the absurdity of love. Echoing rhythms and transcendental modulations represent infatuation, and a certain kind of desperation in catching up to the extremes of somebody else’s existence: “I’m getting there, I can get there too”.
“Can’t Believe The Way We Flow” is a track more overtly belonging in the pop genre, yet speaks volumes on absence and loss. Blake articulates a fear of losing a part of yourself in “Nothing makes a sound/ When you’re not around”. This fear is human, romantic, and pitiful at the same time.
The album’s concluding track, “Lullaby For My Insomniac” sounds like something out of a Michel Gondry film. In the sense that it is both romantic, and a reflection on what being grounded means, it acts as an electronic response to Newton Faulkner’s “Lullaby” from 2007. It is choral and angelic, as if the raw residue of the rest of the electronic album has seemed into this closing track.