Photo: Bill Ebbesen
The English singer-songwriter, musician, and producer has easily established himself as a name to know in the music industry. From working with hip-hop giants like Chance the Rapper, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Frank Ocean, and even turning down Drake, to being a forerunner in the electronica scene, and winning the Mercury Prize in 2013, Blake has time and time again proved to be one of the most interesting and sought-after voices in music. It’s no wonder either, with his unique and infectious take on post-dubstep and downtempo electronica, Blake has received well-deserved praise from fans and critics alike.
Now, the very brand of downtempo electronica Blake helped to popularize has seemed to taken root, as a new wave of emerging artists delve into the realm of minimalistic electronica with their own unique takes on the genre. With three sold-out nights at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church Dec 8-10, it’s clear the people just can’t get enough of the prolific artist, so here are a few of our Ones To Know for those who just can’t get enough of James Blake.
Much of Kacy Hill’s career has surrounded around the notion of discovery, from becoming a model after being discovered by a wedding photographer to entering the music world after being discovered by Kanye West. The same sense of discovery has permeated her music from her first release “Foreign Fields,” which was a minimalistic digital piano ballad that could almost be championed as Blake-ian. Despite these early comparisons, Hill quickly established herself as an artist in her own right. Cultivating her sound, Hill’s delicate falsetto floats along most of her minimalistic downtempo ballads for a more neon-lit, pop-oriented take on the electronica genre. Hill’s debut album, Like A Woman, saw her merging together soaring downtempo electronica ballads with pop in a sonic exploration surrounding the themes of femininity and sexuality.
Chances are if you are a fan of James Blake then you may be well aware of Jamie xx, another forerunner in the UK music scene who made a massive splash in the world of electronica and house with his 2015 album In Colour. Now, what would happen if you were to combine the worlds of James Blake’s otherworldly, airy vocals and signature production elements infused with hints of Jamie xx’s enthralling UK garage and house leanings? The answer would be Bearcubs. The 25-year-old electronic artist and producer Jack Ritchie has already amassed a levity of fanfare in his native London, where he has been championed by BBC Radio 1 heavy hitters such as Annie Mac, Mista Jam, and Huw Stephens, not to mention a striking collaboration with Tom Misch. Despite having yet to release a full-length album, Bearcubs’ samplings thus far showcase a talent that can craft both club-worthy cuts and heart-piercing, lo-fi gems worthy enough to make him an international name to look out for in the electronic scene.
The Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter may have only begun making music relatively recently, but his music feels time-worn and soulful. Moses Sumney taught himself guitar during his time at UCLA where he quickly grew as an artist to create looping soulful indie folk. While the comparison to Blake may not be as readily apparent, Sumney is surely not a talent to be ignored, as he utilizes some of the most interesting facets of Blake’s repertoire. From the spare instrumentation, the slowly building surges of sound, to the looping vocals sung in a hushed tone, Sumney painstakingly crafts a listening experience that feels whole and intimate from the utmost minimum. Sumney’s mesmerizing debut, Aromantacism, album proved to the world at large that he was an artist capable of encapsulating a beautifully profound sense of melancholy with the sparsest of elements.
Banoffee is an English dessert pie made from bananas, cream, and toffee; Banoffee is also the stage name of Australian singer and producer Martha Brown, who makes beautifully stunning minimal electronica and R&B. Enmeshed with soaring synths, syncopated beats, and modified vocals, Banoffee’s music feels like an active exploration and take on both electronica and R&B. Her vocal stylings match the transfixing production with ease, as her delicate vocals take on a new life entirely, thanks to both the strength of the lyrical content and the way in which her voice so playfully lends itself to active modulation. Banoffee has released two EPs, the self-titled Banoffee and Do I Make You Nervous?, whose greater experimentations with elements of pop and electronic production have only left us clamoring for a full-length release.
Elliot Moss has earned multiple comparisons to Thom Yorke, James Blake himself, and frequent Blake collaborator and Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon. These comparisons are beyond deserved and well-founded. Recording, producing, and mixing his own records, Highspeeds and Boommerang, Moss creates entrancing minimal soundscapes that leverage subtle and clever production tricks. Production-wise, the direct comparisons to Blake are plentiful, but this is not the only area in which Moss shines. His songs often touch upon themes of loss and melancholy in poetically simple fashion, which serves as the perfect complement to Moss’ downtempo production style. Combining the production skillset of an early James Blake and the songwriting prowess of Justin Vernon, Moss’ music is as intriguing aurally as it is heartbreaking.
Sevda Alizadeh is an Iranian-born artist who goes by the stage name of Sevdaliza, and her path to becoming a boundary and genre-pushing artist certainly has been interesting, to say the least. Moving to the Netherlands at the age of five before leaving home at the age of 16 on a professional basketball scholarship, few would have guessed that music would eventually be the next profession she would add to her resume. However unexpected the shift into music may have seemed for Sevdaliza, it was undeniably her calling. Teaching herself how to sing and use Ableton at the age of 24, Sevdaliza would begin infusing together production elements from the worlds of electronica, trip-hop, and art pop into her own breathy style of R&B. The final fruition of all her hard work is an aural experience that is not quite like any other, as her debut album Ison so beautifully exemplifies.