James Blake - Playing Robots Into Heaven (Deluxe Edition)

Regular price $ 55.99

Long before James Blake moved to Los Angeles and became a go-to collaborator with several of the world's biggest R&B and hip-hop stars, including Beyoncé, SZA, and Travis Scott, he helped redefine dubstep and U.K. bass music with his early singles on labels like Hessle Audio and Hemlock. In 2023, the same year he helped soundtrack a key scene of the animated blockbuster Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Blake made a partial return to his club roots with Playing Robots into Heaven, his sixth studio album. The release is his first full-length without any major guest appearances since 2011's James Blake, and on a few tracks, he employs the types of cut-up sample tricks he became known for on releases like 2010's CMYK. Most of the songs feature his own aching falsetto vocals, and the lyrics are often strikingly vulnerable and compassionate. Opener "Asking to Break" is a serenade of gentle pianos, drifting dubstep beats, and pitch-shifted vocal loops, as Blake's feathery voice croons lines such as "True love lets you break/And stays around." "Loading" has patiently building club beats, as well as partially fragmented vocals matching Blake's lyrics about incompleteness, as he pleads a partner to understand him. "Tell Me" is one of the album's most intense moments, with buzzing synths and accelerating breakbeats backing Blake's conflicting emotions as he questions whether the fight for love is worth it. The more abstract "He's Been Wonderful" loops gospel samples so that their meaning becomes a bit more ambiguous, and the robotic trap tune "Big Hammer" works in samples of rapid-fire verses by proto-jungle dancehall pioneers the Ragga Twins. The album's highlight is "I Want You to Know," a Burial-like garage shuffle with lyrics that riff on the hook from Snoop Dogg's "Beautiful," but take off with fluttering echo and other effects. "Fire the Editor" curls around the hook "I've already failed so many times," and the confessional "If You Can Hear Me" contains lyrics directed at Blake's estranged father over a meandering piano loop. Recapturing the creativity that made his work stand out in the U.K. club scene around the turn of the 2010s, Playing Robots into Heaven is some of the most honest work of Blake's career.

Limited Edition on White Vinyl

1 Asking to Break 2:52
2 Loading 4:44
3 Tell Me 5:00
4 Fall Back 4:01
5 He's Been Wonderful 3:21
6 Big Hammer 4:00
7 I Want You to Know 4:47
8 Night Sky 3:39
9 Fire the Editor 3:57
10 If You Can Hear Me 2:24
11 Playing Robots Into Heaven 3:54