Moses Sumney: ‘Make Out In My Car (James Blake version)’ review

What I Know:
James Blake is a British producer who started to rise to prominence in the early part of this decade when his EPs and subsequent self-titled album saw him championed, most notably by the BBC.

The later success of his track Retrograde from the album Overgrown would catapult him into a career that has, thus far seen him collaborate with, amongst others, Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé, Bon Iver, and Frank Ocean.

Here, he reinterprets (with help from the original artist, himself) Moses Sumney’s Make Out In My Car – a song from the Californian musician’s debut album Aromanticism, which was released last year.

What I Like:
When I was five years old, my family moved from Scotland to the USA and I vividly remember the single, standout curiosity about American culture that dominated my young thoughts on the long flight over. It was the subject of peanut butter and jelly/jam sandwiches. I remember my Mum telling me about them and about how “everyone” in America eats them. But how, thought I, could two such strong and seemingly different flavours – go so well together as to establish such a popular phenomenon?

Fast forward the best part of 30 years and a hitherto somewhat unknown Moses Sumney emerged as the breakout artist of 2017. His debut album Aromanticism, released in September, was a work of genuinely stunning breadth and vision combined with lyrics that unpicked love (or the incapacity or unwillingness to feel it) alongside political rhetoric and sheer, bloody-minded nihilism.

Blake, of course, has for many years now been firmly established as a luminary, especially with respect to his evolution of the dubstep genre.

Amazing artists both, but when I heard that the latter was going to create a take on one of the former’s tracks from said album, I was reminded of my five year old self’s assessment of the aforementioned sandwiches.

On the surface, they shouldn’t work together, after all Make Out In My Car is the sexy, sultry, seductive jam (pun very much intended) on Aromanticism, and here was Blake – an artist renowned for the cold, unemotional nature of his music – going to remix it.

And yet, much like our sandwich, it works just beautifully. Here, the vocal glitches and creaking floorboards in the background only serve to emphasise the distance in the lyrics (the part where Sumney talks about ‘not wanting to go to bed’ with the subject) rather than the closeness (the bit about actually ‘making out’) that more readily comes to mind from the original. And the dark, magisterial chord progression underneath only serves to heighten that.

Weirdly, I’m left with the feeling that this was always how Sumney intended me to read the lyrics but I’d been too lost in the jazz flutes and haziness of the original to understand the real meaning. The ‘peanut butter’ is bringing out new underlying notes in the ‘jam’ I’d never before tasted.

And the daring combinations don’t stop there. This track is from an EP of ‘re-imaginings’ called Make Out In My Car: Chameleon Suite, featuring further interpretations by Sufjan Stevens, Alex Isley (daughter of the Isley Brothers’ Ernie) and an extended version of the song from Sumney himself. They may not all be to your taste but they’re certainly worth a nibble.

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