Written by: Lo Mekkelson
Playing Robots Into Heaven: Album Review
Heavily anticipated by fans, James Blake’s sixth studio album Playing Robots Into Heaven lives up to the producer, singer and songwriter’s namesake. Since his 2021 release of Friends That Break Your Heart, Blake has been conjuring versatile magic in the studio. With features on the beloved METRO BOOMIN PRESENTS SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE soundtrack, a hit-single on HBO’s Euphoria and the release of a soundscape compilation with Ender, he continues to enthrall listeners worldwide. Maintaining a melantronic presence throughout his discography, Blake rides a new edge with Playing Robots Into Heaven, experimenting with upper-tempo melodies and sharper techno compositions well-suited for the dance floor.
Shifting upward from his recurrent nature of unconventional dreaminess, Playing Robots Into Heaven proves that James Blake is articulate in scratching more of an underbelly of his electronic roots. While some tracks, such as Fall Back and Night Sky remain mostly instrumental, his euphoric vocals spread satisfyingly across other trance-like tracks in the record such as Loading and If You Can Hear Me. It’s no secret that Blake is capable of inducing lullabies with his serenade, and listeners won’t be disappointed to discover that his soothing riffs remain.
A personal favorite off the album includes He’s Been Wonderful. Blake opens up the track with a 1971 sample of Wonderful by Pastor T.L. Barrett followed by a melt of a classic four-by-four time signature etched throughout the track. It acts as a sort of interlude before the highest energy track off the record – Big Hammer. His display of breaking down the barriers of predictable rhythm is evident in He’s Been Wonderful, making it a unique addition to the entirety of the album.
With emerging electronic artists such as Fred Again… and Four Tet blowing up the scene, James Blake reads the room and independently carries similar futuristic soundscapes into Playing Robots Into Heaven. Adding yet another accolade under his belt, the project is a turning point for Blake and an ascension into a new wavelength.
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