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February 14, 2013  | by: Susie Bijan
(Lara Janssen)

Wikimedia Commons (Lara Janssen)


The video for James Blake’s new single “Retrograde,” taken from his forthcoming sophomore album Overgrown  (set for a April 8 release date) is a sci-fi stunner from start to finish. The video opens on a dangerously beautiful note, as an asteroid breaking through a gloomy sky sets up the apocalyptic vibe present throughout the entire production. The addition of a female motorcyclist solemnly patrolling the empty countryside streets and wearing a helmet that looks remarkably akin to David Bowman’s space helmet in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey also adds to the dreamy spectacle.

The video is remarkably pretty, to put it into simple terms. The imagery matches perfectly with Blake’s deep, solemnly arranged melodies, especially when the song picks up as things start getting really mysterious and trippy. A haunting montage of a few gorgeously rendered freeze motion frames of people floating with crumbling debris even makes me wish for my own stylistic doomsday (but only if I’m guaranteed an event that’s on this cinematic level).

The song is incredibly bleak, yet drips with soul and just the right balance of impassioned melancholia that sucks any listener in with its power.  Blake coos, “Suddenly I’m hit / Is this darkness or the dawn? / And your friends are gone.” The warm drizzle of the synths that follow Blake’s vocalizations is eerily comforting, and as the song picks up with Blake’s earnest cries, the video follows appropriately in step. And the overall results are simply otherworldly; it’s definitely no surprise that Martin de Thurah is behind the director’s chair for this music video. Thurah directed such surreal wonders as Röyksopp’s “What Else is There” and most recently, the charmingly offbeat video for St. Vincent and David Byrne’s collaboration “Who.”

I’ve been waiting anxiously for a release by Blake since his marvelous self-titled album in 2011. The 24-year-old dubstep producer is definitely one of my favorite electronic music acts from London, and his preference for eclectic tastes – trip-hop, R&B and soul prove to be worthy musical influences – keep me hooked. Blake’s irresistible tunes – such as “CMYK” – can basically be summed up as dance music appropriate for a psychological thriller, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Sometimes, it’s all about setting up the right atmosphere, and Blake understands this with profound clarity.

What do you think of “Retrograde”? Listen and watch the video below!


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