‘Album of the week’ Gilles Peterson
A heartfelt, genre-bending combination of jazz, soul, pop, and electro, UK singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Pete Josef releases his debut album “Colour” this fall via Sonar Kollektiv.
The title Pete Josef picked for his debut full-length just couldn’t be more appropriate: Like a found collection of analogue photographs, sepia-tinged and covering some beautiful, intense trip, the essence of “Colour” indeed lies in its manifold shades and hues, the colourfully rich and warm soundscapes the singer, songwriter and producer presents throughout the album. At home in various genres – from jazz to soul, from downbeat to outright pop –, Pete Josef just knows how to capture the warm glow of different spheres, how to present this special kind of light in various unique frames: “Colour” is comprised of 11 sonic snapshots, and one can tell right away how deeply personal they are, how much room he’s given these ideas to mature over time.
Prior to releasing his first EP in September 2015, also called “Colour,” Pete Josef, who cut his teeth in Bristol’s buzzing music scene, already shared stages with musical greats such as Roni Size and Kelis. A few years back he formed The White Lamp, a duo with Darren Emerson (Underworld), and their single “Make It Good” turned out a proper club hit. After Berlin-based Sonar Kollektiv licensed the track in 2012, Josef joined many of the label’s artists in the studio, contributing both vocals and his unique songwriting skills to tracks by Alex Barcks, Paskal & Urban Absolutes, Marlow, and Sascha Braemer. His most recent collaboration with ComixXx, “Broken Connection,” acclaimed by German Noisey/Vice, exudes the same kind of warmth and intimacy as his forthcoming full-length.
Although the singer, who currently lives in a cottage in rural Somerset, says that nature is indeed a huge inspiration, “Colour” isn’t about physiographical details at all: Joined by a dozen friends, various drummers, double bass and wind players, he deals with emotional states, sentiments both good and bad, though one can tell that he never gives up hope for an even brighter, more colourful future. What’s more, Josef’s certainly no purist: He effortlessly blends jazz and his very own, shape-shifting take on pop, and when it’s time for some soul flavours, there’s not even a hint of irony, no cool façade – which makes him sound like an artist from the sixties or seventies rather than some hip post-R&B kid.
The combination of pure, heartfelt bliss, mixed with dashes of melancholy and nostalgia, is already in the air on album opener “Spring At Last”: piano loops, soon underpinned by bass, live drums, strings, while Pete and his vocal guest Marie Lister (who sings on five tracks) praise the “beauty of spring”. After his majestic “Mistress,” all horns and stadium-ready, almost crooner-type pop, “Move On” is another one about relationships: “I won’t lie to you I’m sad,” he confesses over playful guitars and sweet rim-shots.
Completely self-penned, self-recorded and produced, Pete Josef heads into many different sonic spheres over the course of “Colour”’s 11 tracks: There’s introspective, night-time minimalism (“Night Gospel,” “Running In Series”) and exuberant vocal jazz – the bossa-fuelled “Travelling Song,” for example, and his mantra-like “Life Your Life” (his advice: “live it well”) –, and there’s also a track like “Hope,” epically arranged and based around a poem by Emily Dickinson: At first, his stunning voice has plenty of room for itself, until the track spreads its wings and takes off majestically like some composition by The Cinematic Orchestra.
And yet, this voice sounds altogether different on “Many Signs,” almost like a latter-day Stevie Wonder, until he once again shows his love for beats on the tropically hot “Something Good”. The album ends with pure bliss – the title track “Colour”: “Wonder why/walking through flowers/it makes me high.” It’s true and soothing: Beauty lies in simple things.
It’s easily the soundtrack to this year’s Indian summer: “Colour” refracts and pools the warm afterglow of many years, and it burns brighter with each listen.
‘Spring at Last, Night Gospel, The Traveling Song, Many Signs, and the title track are stunning, layered beauties that get better with every rotation. Love the subtle electronica textures, the additional vocals on “Spring…” and “Traveling…”. And those final 56 seconds of Live Your Life are infectiously fantastic.’