synth

Where in the world is Jai Paul?

With the long-anticipated release of a new Frank Ocean album finally coming to fruition, another equally elusive artist came to mind: Jai Paul.

Jai Paul is an artist who came into the scene having already formed a unique and personal sound, a sound that you can recognise as his own from hearing a few seconds of most of the songs he’s made. And trust, I’ve looked for similar styled artists, artists who try similar things in their experimental production, but it always feels as if they’re either not as good as Jai Paul or that they’re copying him rather blatantly.

 

Paul being elusive however is not to say he’s unknown – having only one demo underneath his belt, XL Recordings signed to him to a deal in 2010, releasing an edit of the track a year later in 2011. ‘BTSTU’ is a stunning track, especially considering it was Jai Paul’s first full-fledged effort. Juxtaposition is used to full effect, with half the track being led by a surprisingly powerful falsetto which is backed by a harmonic vocal melody, and the other introducing itself with wave after wave of distorted synth along with Paul’s regular singing voice. The whole track is chocked full of effects, and introduced us to one of Jai Paul’s personal favourites, the sidechain, providing moments of subdued almost-silence, a palpitation-like impact. Although the parts individually seem to be rather upbeat, ‘BTSTU’ at its heart is rather angry, the opening lines becoming comic once you understand what they actually are (something which can be quite difficult with Paul’s music):

“Don’t fuck with me, don’t fuck with me

Since you shipped my ass off to sea”

The demo provided Paul with a copious amount of media coverage, being played by DJs such as Zane Lowe and Annie Mac, as well as being sampled by heavyweights such as Drake  (‘Dreams Money Can Buy’) and Beyonce (‘The End of Time’).

A year later came his next track, ‘Jasmine’ which again received similar critical acclaim, once again being lauded by Lowe and Mac. Guitar features more prominently in the track, an electric guitar laying down the main chord progression whilst what seems to be a bass guitar with an auto-wah effect providing some funk-era vibes. ‘Jasmine’ also marks the formal appearance of Jai Paul’s brother, A.K. Paul, who is credited not only with bass design but also c0-writing props as well (A.K. Paul has since worked with artists such as Sam SmithEmeli Sande, and Miguel, but has also remained rather elusive). The tone of the song was less aggressive, more romanticised, presenting a desire for a something or a someone, rather than a push away from it.

 

Work with artists such as Big Boi on the track ‘Higher Res’ (upon which he left a definite mark) followed, until 2013, where an artist’s (especially an artist like Jai Paul) worst nightmare was realised – a Bandcamp album was released supposedly under the guise of it being Paul’s debut effort, with the internet being set ablaze before Paul himself said it was a leak. This didn’t stop the hype surrounding it though, Jai Paul being listed in various ‘Best Albums of the Year’ lists. In reality, it was obvious that the album was not ready to be released, the mixing on many of the tracks was extremely unbalanced (and not in an edgy, “ooh it’s Jai Paul so it’s fine” kind of way), and many of the recordings were almost too distorted. Perhaps most noticeably was the far inferior version of ‘Jasmine’ that featured on the album.

 

That being said, the leaked album is by far one of the most exciting and explosive listenings I’ve had the joy to experience. Explosive and far reaching synths, arcade-sounds, Harry Potter samples, Bollywood samples, extreme sidechaining, layered guitar, and more all combine to give an incredibly genre-bending and unique album. And yet despite this, we haven’t heard anything from Jai Paul since. No one knows if these tracks were the finished product, whether or not we should be listening to them, or whether or not Paul has simply thrown these tracks away (a testament to the skill and musicality of the artist). The last posts on Paul’s Twitter and Facebook have both been from 2013 stating that the album was indeed a leak – nothing else has appeared on either social media format:

Alas we have heard virtually nothing from Jai Paul since. This year he started The Paul Institute with his brother, though the only track that has surfaced from there has been A.K. Paul’s ‘Landcruisin”.

In the age of the internet where everything is at our fingerprints, Jai Paul has managed to stay out of the spotlight – do not think this is a show of disinterest, or a lack of desire to produce more music, rather it is a sign of perfectionism and knowledge of timing, that when he feels his music is ready to be revealed bare he will do so. And I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting the day.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez

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Album Review – ‘Reverie’ by Tom Misch

Tom Misch, singer, guitarist, violinist, and producer, puts together a perfect Summer record with his EP Reverie. I had first ran into him whilst surfing those YouTube channels who are wanting to make themselves home to a particular style of music (think Majestic Casual, Holy Chill, Chillhop, etc.). The track I actually heard is featured on the EP, a collaboration with his saxophonist sister Laura Misch.

Tom Misch’s soothing voice pairs fantastically with the saxophone in the chorus, especially when the harmonies kick in. The double-bass behind the track has been beefed up in the low-end providing a more 808 like style, filling out the track considerably when paired with the drum loops. Lyrically there’s not much to be amazed by, but by no means does it hinder the track either, the scat “m-m m-m-m-m maybe” being a very nice touch and variation to the song.

Despite Misch’s instrumental prowess, he actually employs drum loops and all four tracks of the EP. This could have felt repetitive had the rest of the production not been rather interesting. Opener ‘Crazy Dream’ has a nice enveloped synthesiser which is joined by funk-inspired guitar and bass on the chorus. The rapping, whilst matching Misch’s soothing vocals, almost sound too smooth and relaxed, but again, it’s not a major upset or anything to criticise overly, especially when the lead synth is embedded beautifully towards the end of the track, and so Loyle Carner‘s feature does not go to waste.

‘I Wish’ features a snap-snared beat following a summery-acoustic guitar, an opening which remained me of Chance the Rapper’s ‘Favourite Song’ – I wasn’t quite sure of the chorus, it doesn’t quite fit with the more downtempo feeling of the song, the bass guitar and guitar pairing together to play a much upbeat riff. Had this solely comprised the chorus it would have been a questionable decision, but Misch adds his vocals prior to this little section, accentuated by crash cymbals to make it the change-up manageable.

‘Watch Me Dance’ closes the album, Misch’s violinist upbringing coming to the fore as the track is introduced with a lamenting string section which slips to the background as he brings in guitar and vocals. At around the 1 minute 40 second mark the name of the track comes to light as the kick drum drives the track forward with the bass guitar and guitar riffing away over the top of this.

The track really demonstrates his influences from funk, to hip-hop, to house as well. For someone who has yet to release a full-length debut album, Tom Misch is continuing to make waves, impressively selling out venues and embarking on his first US tour. I’ve yet to find a song that he’s written that I dislike, or rather that I don’t like, and so I hope he continues his ways and wish him success.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez

Album Review – ‘Kindred’ by Passion Pit

Passion Pit, a band that started as Michael Angelakos’ Valentine’s Day gift to his girlfriend have returned for their third album Kindred. Passion Pit’s sound can be described as catchy synth-pop with some indie and singer/songwriter overtones. Their  popularity is undeniable, as shown by their over half a million followers on Spotify alone.

The opening track, ‘Lifted up (1985)’ is a great example of this with a great synth hook and strong beat backing anthemic vocals that reminisce about the “good year” that was 1985 and are a feature through much of the rest of the album. ‘All I Want’ takes the album in a more acoustic direction, especially during the finger picked intro, though there are still the interestingly produced titbits of sound and synth after the first chorus. The choir-like vocals seen in ‘Lifted up (1985)’ also feature here.

‘Five Foot Ten (I)’ brings the record back to a more dance style, a fast strong beat and even a ‘drop’ in the chorus that has EDM and Dance-Pop overtones. The highlight of Kindred for me, however, is ‘Dancing on the Grave’. It’s a more stripped back sound than the rest of the album, and it’s this more minimalist approach that gives the track its beauty. Haunting synths and fabulous soulful vocals carry the song in its almost lamentable quality.The end of the track moulds into a sound that is reminiscent of a rainforest or an underwater sound, leading well into the opening of ‘Until We Can’t (Let’s Go)’.

Overall, Kindred is a good example of the genre. It’s also, in its own way, eclectic, in the different moods that are conveyed over the album, though it is easy to get caught up in the light dance tracks and ignore the other great songs whose beats aren’t quite as strong, but have strength and beauty in their own right.

This article was written by Sam Brunt.