Best of 2013 by Jamie Malcolm – follow him @mylittleforts
The Jai Paul story is a strange one. He’s officially released 2 songs in 7 years, with the first reportedly only down to his brother unleashing it to MySpace in 2007 because it just had to be heard. That song ‘BTSTU’ has since been separately sampled by two of the biggest artists in the world (Beyonce & Drake) the other track ‘Jasmine’ was just recently selected to be on the prestigious soundtrack to GTA V. So not bad going from a guy from Rayners Lane and with 1 tweet to his name.
After an apparent biding war he signed a deal with XL in 2010 with seemingly little pressure to release material. Rumours started to spread in early 2013 that he was going to retire an enigma and would never return. Shuffle forward to roughly 2:00AM on April 14th and this ‘album’ was uploaded to Bandcamp. Nine months later and still so many questions remain. Did Jai upload it himself? Did XL upload it without Jai knowing? Was it uploaded by a laptop robbing thief? Was this tracklisting the original plan for the album? How can something including samples from Harry Potter, Gossip Girl, Tomb Raider, KC & Jojo, Michael Caine and the beeping of a shutting tube train door be so incredible?
It clearly doesn’t have the XL polish, so i’ve always seen it as an audio sketch book. Ideas are unfinished, background fuzz is present throughout and there are multi second silences at the end of some songs, but by not being a audio nerd none of this has effected my enjoyment a single iota. What’s special to me and many others is that most comparisons don’t quiet fit. He appears to simultaneously straddle the past, present and future.
Track 2 aka Str8 Outta Mumbai is undoubtedly the biggest smorgasbord of ideas, sounds and genres to be released this year. It starts with a recording of a duo of DJ’s introducing a track by John Paul, the other corrects him ‘Jai Paul.’ This perfectly acts as a knowing wink to us from Jai of his enigmatic ways. The song has a killer combination of upbeat fun, spacey vocals and a crazy Bollywood sample harkening back to it’s use from hip hop producers such as DJ Quik, Dr Dre, Just Blaze and Timbaland in early 2000’s. The thumping drum claps on 10,000 along with the cascading synths (that I’ve spent all year unsuccessfully trying to figure out what they remind me of) are reminiscent of The Neptunes in their producing pomp. The way they fade to the background at points to highlight the vocals is such a simply beautifully technique. The audaciously odd reinterpretation of Jennifer Page’s 1998 pop gem Crush is another highlight. His style is transplanted and bolted onto it and the lyrics take a sultry modern twist. The mini riff near the conclusion feels plucked from what a Michael Jackson and Prince collaboration from 20 years ago might sound like. It’s all audaciously paired with a reverbed woodblock of all things. Jasmine is a pulsing odyssey that glides around effortlessly and perfectly suits a nocturnal neon lit journey across London. Genevieve scuttles around your ear drums in a vast array of directions – none of which you expect. Loads of ideas (audio tangents?) are being hurled around and all of them stick. All Night is a bonafide slow jam that magically pulls memories of abundant romances into your synapses. The album ends how it all started for him with BTSTU, a juxtaposition of juxtapositions. Harsh and angelic vocals spread over a beat that gets crazy and shrinks down to nothing at times.
I’m kind of indifferent as to what happens next. He and his brother Anup are obviously such talented guys and I would I love to see some new material and how all this would translate to a live environment. If this is the end and nothing new ever arrives i’m more than happy to enjoy Jasmine on a night bus home with a beaming London as a backdrop or stroll through an crispy autumnal park arm in arm with someone with All Night emanating from my headphone splitter.
I have compiled 16 pieces of digital artwork to represent each song on Jai Paul. See it here.