James Blake at the Paradise Rock Club, Monday
You might not expect a precious London electronic music composer to be at the center of a music beef, but that’s where James Blake found himself last week, when an interview he gave to the Boston Phoenix decrying the “macho’’ “frat-boy’’ posturing of the American dubstep audience kicked up a controversy. At his sold-out performance at the Paradise Rock Club on Monday, he arrived as the British ambassador politicking for the gentler, more thoughtful potential of the genre.
Joined onstage by his band, utilizing a hybrid drum kit, guitar, and effects triggers, Blake’s sonic palate expanded. During “Unluck’’ they erected a cathedral of organ sounds, one slow, ascending chord after another, while a clatter of percussion click-clacked like hardened raindrops amid muted blasts of static.
On songs like “Lindisfarne 1’’ Blake’s vocals were looped and harmonized, folded over and into themselves, his melodies melting into quickened pools of mercury. Throughout “I Never Learnt to Share’’ the feedback loops were injected with trembling noise bursts that coalesced into the roar of an aircraft at liftoff. It threatened to turn into a club banger but demurred before a second passage arrived. With a banjo effect on the guitar, the song sounded almost rustic, a futuristic folk hymn.
A more traditional club track, “CMYK,’’ with its simmering hi-hats and bass throb, differentiated itself with a samba beat. Surprisingly, the Feist cover “Limit to Your Love’’ was the closest to stereotypical dubstep, with its echoing drums, piano, and bass wobble. Little wonder then that Blake seems disappointed by his boorish peers; there’s nothing of his subtlety on display in the clubs right now, or anywhere else for that matter.