I’ve decided to try something new starting today- once a week I’d like to talk about a song that’s on my mind. As of now there’s not really a format to the writing, I’m just going to pick a tune and talk about why I like it. Here we go!
This week’s song is James Blake’s brand new (as of Jan 25th) track “If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead”.
I’ve always admired Blake’s fearlessness in experimentation. Every musical decision he makes in his music feels so deliberate. For someone with such a beautiful voice, he sure doesn’t refrain from effecting and chopping it up to create immensely interesting melodies and, in this case rhythms.
One of the first things I really enjoyed when I first heard this song was the varying frequencies of soft noise accompanying the high, percussive melody. It sounds like he may have sampled lightly tapping a bowl and pitch shifting the sample to create this line. It’s no secret that I have a deep respect for musicians who do not fear noise, be it self created or from outboard equipment such as tape machines.
Perhaps the most striking characteristic of this song is Blake’s chopping and pitch shifting of his vocals. There is such a methodical process to these vocals- an exact consideration for when to chop and splice. It reminds me of bumping an old CD Walkman and hearing the track skip. In addition, there are splices that consist solely of inhales, or of noise created by Blake’s mouth as he prepares to sing the next note. This, to me, creates a sense of restless anxiety- a tossing and turning in the middle of the night.
In much of my research and practice I love to talk about the use of imperfect replication as an viable musical choice. It is a choice that helps when I write more experimental music, and With “If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead” it finds a place in a more “pop*” oriented style. It’s really refreshing to see these worlds collide! I really think that one of the most important jobs of creating experimental music is to take weird ideas to the furthest extremes possible, and then consider how every step along the way could be useful, be it in terms of future experimental work or in the world of music as a whole.
There’s an immensely powerful moment at around the 2:29 mark where the only stable vocals of the song come in. Once again Blake’s familiar high chest/ falsetto vocals are absent in place of low, drawn out vocal lines. This creates a moment of stability- a pause to think in an otherwise sporadic and unstable tune. It gives me a crazy shiver every time it happens!
As a final thought I want to just say that at the music video is a spectacular parallel to the music- check it out below, and feel free to strike up a discussion if you so feel it!
I’ll see you next week!
*I use the term “pop” very loosely here- and more so in relation to where Blake’s past music has been categorized. Fans of the show will know that personally I believe the boxing of music through genre is becoming more and more obsolete- especially for artists that pull from a great deal of styles and influences.