James Blake has released a hauntingly beautiful cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s famous tragic song ‘Sound of Silence’. This cover also features Bon Iver’s enigmatic leader Justin Vernon.
The cover was released during Blake’s appearance on BBC Radio 1’s Residency programme, which was on last night at 10pm. If you are UK based you can listen to the whole show here, which I’d heartily recommend.
Within the show James and Justin spend two hours listening and discussing a wide range of experimental music as well as discussing Vernon’s recent festival success at Eaux Claires.
Eaux Claires enjoyed its inaugural debut as a festival earlier this year in July. Based in Vernon’s childhood home of Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Vernon and The National’s Aaron Dessner worked together to bring the festival to fruition, personally selecting 41 bands to perform at the festival.
James Blake also hinted that his new album ‘Radio Silence’ will be coming out later this year. He also confirmed that Justin Vernon will be appearing on it; as will Kanye West. Blake discussed the album on the radio show, saying this:
“The [album] I’m writing now, I’ve had more focus doing this than I have before. I’m having more fun. It’s hard to say what will end up on the record, but it’s exciting.”
James Blake will be hoping that his new album will continue his fantastic success he has already achieved in music; with his self titled album being nominated for the Mercury Award in 2011 and his second album ‘Overgrown’ winning the Mercury Prize in 2013.
Now onto the cover itself, which can be listened to here:
Blake delivers the vocals hauntingly well, supported by some virtuoso keyboard playing. A steady bass line holds up the spine of the song, allowing further prominence to be brought forth to the falsetto harmonies of Vernon and Blake. The song, by definition is tragic, however Blake in particular manages to bring another level of tragedy and emotion to it whilst still managing to play tribute to the original version, as seen by the reliance upon vocal harmonies, which was of course Simon & Garfunkel’s defining musical characteristic.
The emotion put forth in the song is further exemplified by Blake’s explanation of why he covered that particular song:
“When Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel wrote this, they said … it was about the breakdown of communication,” Blake explained. “One New Year’s Eve I had a friend of mine sadly pass away, and previous to that, the things he had been saying to me sounded like an attempt to reach out to people. I thought that after that happened this seemed to be the only song that could represent how I felt at the time.” The cover (dedicated to his friend) speaks for itself.”
Vernon and Blake have previous when collaborating; Vernon and Blake worked together on Blake’s EP ‘Enough Thunder’, collaborating on the song ‘Fall Creek Boys Choir’, see below:
Vernon continues his musical ability to seemingly merge and collaborate with a wide range of artists and bring out the best of them; we’ve seen it with The Staves and now we continue to see it with James Blake. This also shows James Blake’s continued growth as a musician, and can only promise bigger and better things from the man in his new album ‘Radio Silence’.