Tag Archives: James Blake

LIVE: PowerShares Tennis Series, Rose Quarter, Portland, OR

By Nick Winterfeld

DSCN0814Andre Agassi // Photo credit: Arya Imig

Portland tennis fans had a rare treat Thursday night at the Moda Center when four retired players including John McEnroe and Andre Agassi stopped by for a charity tournament. The PowerShares series is a 12-night event featuring American tennis stars over thirty. In addition to Agassi and McEnroe, the Portland stop, the ninth this year, featured James Blake and Jim Courier.

Portland doesn’t often host tennis events of this caliber. The last time we had anything close was in 2007 when the Davis Cup Final was held at the Memorial Coliseum. While The Power Shares series doesn’t come close to matching the prestige of the Davis Cup, Thursday night was still a very big deal for Portland tennis fans, and it was something we don’t see here nearly as often as we would like.

Nike, the ubiquitous shoe brand, has been very good to tennis, and by extension, so has Portland. No Nike-sponsored player made it as big as Agassi, who splashed onto the tennis scene in the early 1990s.  His charismatic style, combined with aggressive marketing by Nike using his image, helped to bring a new, larger audience to tennis.  Just when John McEnroe was nearing retirement,Agassi, along with contemporary Pete Sampras, seemed to pick up the torch, beginning a new era of Americans dominating the scene.  I had my own pair of Agassi Nikes, white with purple trim, when I was ten. I don’t know if they made me a better player, but they sure looked cool.

DSCN0803John McEnroe // Photo Credit: Arya Imig

The year I got my Agassi Nikes, 1992, was also the year Agassi won Wimbledon, often considered the grandest of the grand slam tournaments. At the time, he was the first American to win the title since John McEnroe had last won in London in 1984.  He would go on to win all four grand slams at least once, a feat unmatched even by Sampras.

Thursday night was a one-day tournament featuring three,  single-set matches; two semi-finals and a final.

Game one featured James Blake and Jim Courier. While Courier is the more accomplished player, he was no match for the younger, quicker Blake. Next came Agassi versus McEnroe. Even at the age of 55, McEnroe is fast and a formidable opponent for Agassi. On Thursday, however, Agassi, the 90s favorite, was at the top of his game, advancing to the final round to face Blake, the youngest player in the tournament.

While the previous two nights saw Blake take the final round, Thursday belonged to Agassi.

This was the first time I had been to a professional tennis event, and I was not disappointed. From my ninth-row seat I was treated to first-hand greatness. I’ve been watching the pros (including these very men,) play on TV since I was a four-year-old boy. But to see them perform in person is something else altogether. Though I knew to expect this from seeing it on TV, it is almost disconcerting to be at a sporting event where the crowd applauds after a play-disconcerting yet delightful.

DSCN0770James Blake // Photo credit: Arya Imig

The fans relished seeing these legends, especially Agassi and McEnroe, compete live.  And the players, for their part, loved the opportunity to still compete and dazzle the audience, post-retirement.

McEnroe brought his famous flair for arguing with the umpire, and even throwing his racket at one point. Would the crowd have wanted it any other way? Agassi, for his part, was ever the gentleman-genuinely modest, and unfazed by the ugly taunt from an audience member, or by his courtside interviews with the slick Brett Haber of the Tennis Channel.

Thursday night’s event was a love letter to Portland tennis fans, and the love was reflected right back at the legendary men on the court.

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Episode 72: Machine Music

Thanks again to Novak for joining us on the show! You can listen above, or download it here.

Topic:

  • Industrial music (and a little bit of Goth!)
  • What are the origins of the genre? Did it truly start with Throbbing Gristle?
  • Is the music as much about attitude as it is about sound?
  • What does the future hold for the genre?

Songs:

Bands:

  • Ray Parker, Jr.
  • John Lennon / The Beatles
  • Honeyblood
  • We Were Promised Jetpacks
  • Surfer Blood
  • Deaf Havana
  • Deafheaven
  • The Bronx
  • Mariachi El Bronx
  • Public Service Broadcasting
  • Cibo Matto
  • Salt Cathedral
  • Peter Hook / Ian Curtis / Joy Division
  • Morrissey
  • Sean Lennon / The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger
  • Purity Ring
  • Chvrches
  • Light
  • Mike Watt
  • Tennis
  • Chris Thile / Nickel Creek
  • Mike Marshall
  • James Blake
  • Toyboat Toyboat Toyboat
  • Shores of Oblivion
  • Levon’s Helmet
  • Supercrow
  • Charming Birds
  • The Bee Gees
  • Brother Elf
  • Liquid Light
  • Electro Kracken
  • Billy Corgan / Smashing Pumpkins
  • Daniel Lopatin / Oneohtrix Point Never
  • Author & Punisher
  • Skinny Puppy
  • Genesis P-Orridge / Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson/ Throbbing Gristle
  • Einstürzende Neubauten
  • Jim Thirlwell / Foetus
  • Al Jourgensen / Ministry
  • Bauhaus
  • The Cure
  • Can
  • Raymond Watts / KMFDM
  • Amy Winehouse
  • Michael Gira / Swans
  • VNV Nation
  • Combichrist
  • Trent Reznor / Nine Inch Nails
  • Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
  • The Edge / U2
  • Rammstein
  • Elvis Costello
  • Charles Mingus
  • Justin Broadrick / Godflesh
  • Isis
  • Pitchshifter
  • Fear Factory
  • Death Grips
  • The Knife
  • David Bowie
  • Brian Eno
  • Kanye West
  • Phil Anselmo / Pantera
  • The Horrors
  • Martin Sexton
  • Maynard James Keenan / Tool
  • A Perfect Circle
  • Failure
  • Pixies
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
  • Dr. Dog
  • Red Fang
  • Your Rival
  • Genders
  • Fresh Hair
  • Joy Pearson
  • Yob
  • Baal
  • Witch Mountain
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REVIEW: James Blake – Overgrown

On the very first track on Overgrown, James Blake sings something fairly humble. “I don’t wanna be a star, but a stone on the shore.” I feel bad for him in this moment, because he’s a little too far past that now. Two years ago, Blake released his self-titled debut, a stunning and understated study on the human voice in relation to electronic music. It was a natural progression of the world Blake lives in, taking cues from his peers (specifically Four Tet and Burial), who made names for themselves doing the same thing. Say what you will about the differences between dubstep in America vs. that from abroad, but one of the most telling things about the divide is how each handles the voice. James Blake has always treated it as an element, on the same level of any other piece of his music. This came through constantly on the debut, but listening to Overgrown, it’s incredibly clear that he has outgrown that belief. Here, his voice at the forefront, and though it sounds weak at times, there is never a moment where it wavers, and he knows just when to let it burst. This is best demonstrated on “Retrograde”, the album’s first single, which chooses the chorus to do just that: “Suddenly I’m hit!” he yelps as the track erupts. His voice is still full of that signature crackle, but it stands strong, though it comes off as very cold.

The telling thing about Overgrown is how much he relies on his (seemingly) unaltered voice to do the storytelling. Where the first album was sparsely filled with simplistic lines, here his songwriting elevates everything to a level where that manipulation seems superfluous. What is immediately noticeable is the fact that this album makes the last look like a rough sketch. The aforementioned sparseness is traded for sheer size, with each track feeling more full than the last one. It’s a welcome change, and it acts as a pseudo-progress-report for how Blake is coming along as a producer, nevermind his songwriting. On top of that, it feels clear that he’s become somewhat willing to share the experiencw with others around him: one of the most obviously altered tracks on the record is “Digital Lion”, a track produced not by Blake, but by master-produced Brian Eno, whose fingerprints are all over the track. Even RZA gets in on the action, providing solid vocals for “Take a Fall For Me” near the beginning of the album, despite on occasion feeling like he’s fighting the urge to fake a British accent.

Overall, one of the best things about Overgrown is that it feels like Blake is itching to continue a trend he started on his first album. He’s a maudlin and reserved man who doesn’t seem to enjoy being interviewed about his work, but he’s churning out some of the most soulful music of the last 10 years. You could describe it as neo-soul, but it’s something more than that, really. In short, this album is the work of someone who wants to forge a new path for himself, letting his music express the emotions he finds himself unable to really express on his own. It’s a brave direction for someone as young as Blake (as of this writing, he’s only 24), and someone who is under as much constant artistic scrutiny.

If you’re like me, you like to categorize albums into different categories. Some albums are designated as “workout albums” or “cleaning the house albums”, or “lovemaking albums” or “playing video games albums”. Listening to Overgrown late at night, it’s obvious that the album is one of the best albums possible for dinner parties, drinking whiskey at 3am, and loneliness. It is an album that embodies a very specific mood, and it’s interesting to feel how that changes the mood I’m in when pressed up against it. Time will tell if James Blake improves upon the formula he’s already perfected, but even if he only built on this, rather than forging a path forward, I would gladly listen to every single album he put out.

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