Since the turn of the decade, James Blake’s output has been on a different level. The London-born singer, songwriter, and producer has released two loose singles, a 2020 EP of covers, a full-length studio album Friends That Break Your Heart in 2021, plus at least eight guest features with artists such as Don Toliver, Dave, Mount Kimbie, and Metro Boomin.
On July 26th, Blake released the second single “Loading” for his upcoming album Playing Robots into Heaven, which is slated for release Sept. 8th. The project was announced on June 28th along with the leadoff single “Big Hammer,” which foreshadowed a serious step in a different sonic direction for Blake.
“Loading” explores a vast electronic soundscape, featuring the singer’s pitch-shifted vocals. His previous single “Big Hammer” did not contain any vocals from Blake; a brave statement for the initial look at his new project. Blake’s lyrics on “Loading” touch on personal growth with the hook “Where are my wings? / They’re loading,” which also could be inferring a predicted death, when related to angels. The haunting atmosphere of the rising chords during the track’s choruses give Blake’s manipulated vocals an eerie feeling.
Throughout the track, a high-pitched voice disperses rhythmically spoken lines over the instrumental breaks. The same vocal can be found throughout the Dom Maker half of Mount Kimbie’s 2022 double album MK 3.5: Die Cuts| City Planning, on which Blake provided vocals for the song “somehow she’s still here.” Maker is credited as a co-producer on “Loading” beside Blake, Rob McAndrews, and Jameela Jamil, the latter having lent their talents to Blake’s previous two studio albums.
After signing with Polydor Records from 2011 and finding success as a vocalist, Blake’s solo career was pivoted towards a singer-first, producer-second perception. However, prior to Polydor, Blake had released electronic efforts on smaller, UK labels such as Hemlock Recordings, Hessle Audio, and R&S Records in 2009 and 2010.
Following the release of Playing Robots into Heaven, Blake will embark on a month-long international tour, with tickets now available on his website. His intrepid new album is available for pre-save and pre-order now, and the new single “Loading” can be streamed below.