Bringing experimental sound to Hong Kong

Bringing experimental sound to Hong Kong

The Brits have a reputation for having a knack for mixing art and science. Take, for example, celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, owner of the three-Michelin star restaurant The Fat Duck, who leads the world in molecular gastronomy.

In the world of music, they have London-born singer and songwriter James Blake, whose blend of electronic sounds and meticulous post-production was a breath of fresh air in the industry.

The Grammy-nominated sound scientist visited Hong Kong on January 23 and played a 90-minute set in front of a delighted crowd at Kowloon International Trade & Exhibition Centre.

The 25-year-old kicked off the show with I Never Learnt to Share. He sang the first line without music: "My brother and my sister don't speak to me, but I don't blame them."

Turns out, Blake recorded that line to be looped. He played the line repeatedly, and each time he and his band added an instrument. Line by line, the song came together.

Singing with his eyes closed, Blake pounded on the keyboards, completely absorbed in the performance.

He then moved on to more hits, including I Am Sold, Digital Lion, and Overgrown. The crowd loved every one.

For Our Love Comes Back, Blake started the song as it is on the album - a soulful solo - but as the song progressed, his band joined in, adding mesmerising psychedelic beats and electric sound effects. It turned into a free jam for the band, resulting in something like a dreamy symphony.

To see Blake and his band - made up of just two friends - perform such sophisticated, full sounds is a testament to the skills of each musician, especially Blake's science of music.

And though the singer's vocals sounded ethereal, it was all natural; he only used autotune on one track, popular single Lindisfarne.

For the encore, Blake took things full circle by once again using his looper in a version of Measurements.

If anything held back Blake for the night, it was the venue's sound system, which wasn't up to standard. But this time you can hardly blame the venue - Hong Kong rarely, if ever, sees anyone experiment with sound quite like Blake does.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Bringing experimental sound to Hong Kong

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