A.K. Paul — Landcruisin’ (2015)
I find that I’m regularly returning to this sui generis single by the reclusive London musician A. K. Paul, best known as the brother of the almost equally reclusive London musician Jai Paul. Although neither Paul has yet released an album, their sensuous, future-leaning productions have drawn fascination since 2011, when Jai Paul’s single BTSTU came looping and gleaming across British radio. That track went on to be sampled by Drake, then Beyoncé; his follow-up, a single called Jasmine, was correctly hailed as one of 2012’s best songs.
Since then, both Paul brothers have worked with other artists and a collection of dazzling Jai Paul demos leaked in 2013. Still, fans have grown impatient waiting for a second act. That was announced this spring: a shared label, The Paul Institute, inaugurated by A. K. Paul’s debut solo single. Promotion for Landcruisin’ was conducted via cellphone text messages and a mysterious, lo-fi website, like something pulled off of a Blade Runner computer terminal.
Blade Runner is a suitable touchstone: a movie from 1982 that takes place in 2019. Like Jasmine, Landcruisin’s sonic textures seem decades old. Thatcher-era synthesizer patches, drum sounds, reverb: these things can be music’s equivalent of a patina. Confusingly, the Pauls apply this patina to shapes that oughtn’t wear it – if Landcruisin’ were architecture, its spires would twist into outer space.
Landcruisin’ is also indebted to another eighties movie: Purple Rain. The motorcycle skidding across its edges might as well be Prince’s and the late singer has clearly inspired Paul’s vocals. Beyond that, both brothers’ work is imbued with some of Prince’s most cherished virtues: eros, virtuosity, melody, harmony, even that certain slipperiness. But Prince’s rarest quality was his aura, something ineffable and profound, which haloed everything he did. Jai and A. K. Paul have a glow, so far. The rest, it’s too soon to tell.
Ernesto Djedje — Zibote (1977)
I went out on Goose Lake today, in my cousin's little boat. There were three loons. There were clouds. There were three impatient fishermen, two fishing lines, no fish. Both of the little girls went diving into the water; they wanted us to follow. We were brave and cowardly at the same time, in the manner of all prospective lake swimmers. Three splashes later, there we were, shivering. We swam circles, ducked under, five happy swimmers and one little boat. Then we got out. We went to shore and ate enchiladas. I don't know what this has to do with Côte d'Ivoire's mighty, immortal Ernesto Djedje but at the same time I do. Zibote's horns are like a boat as someone's jumping from it. Its guitars are like summer on lake water. Djedje himself is a loon, or a fishing line, or the enchiladas. He completes the thing he's part of.
One thing I've learned in my 34 years: dancing can help you dry off faster.
Sean Michaels received the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel Us Conductors. He is the editor of the music blog Said the Gramophone.