James Blake and Bon Iver cover The Sound of Silence: The Simon and Garfunkel classic gets an electronic version.

James Blake’s Cover of “The Sound of Silence” Is the Best Possible Take on a Classic

James Blake’s Cover of “The Sound of Silence” Is the Best Possible Take on a Classic

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Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 10 2015 3:03 PM

Turns Out James Blake Is the Perfect Person to Cover “The Sound of Silence”

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James Blake performs on April 23, 2011 in France.

Photo by ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images

There’s a reason why, in 2011, Clash called James Blake the “crown prince of the quiet revolution.” Even then, the British singer’s sparse, post-everything brand of electronica felt new for its confident use of silence, for the way it made soft piano, mangled static, and percussive clicks pulse with energy.

Fitting, then, that Blake ended his most recent BBC 1 radio residency with a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.”  Blake and his guest, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, come as close as possible to elevating a classic: Their rendition beautifully pairs blue-eyed soul with a background of reverb, distant crackle, and stop-start organ chords. Fingers crossed that Blake’s third album, Radio Silence, sees daylight this year.  

Sharan Shetty is on the editorial staff of the New Yorker. You can follow him on Twitter