This past hour has been quite exciting for music lovers across the world. Whilst sitting in chilly Lincoln, fervently trawling through twitter and council websites, I received a text. ‘This is a message from the Paul Institute. Two new releases are now available’. It took me a moment to realise what that all meant. And then I remembered: Jai Paul, the legendarily elusive musician and producer, was back.
Many moons ago, too many for me to even appreciate (back in the days of MySpace believe it or not), I was scrolling through the Klaxons page (please, it was a long time ago). They had posted on their page a song called ‘BTSTU’ by a chap called Jai Paul. Thinking I was cool, I thought I should give it a listen. At first, I was convinced my speakers were broken. Then I played it again. And again. And again. Ad infinitum. The strange dub-step-y chorus, the falsetto verses, the stop-start instrumentation – it was all brilliant. ‘Who is this Jai Paul?’ I pondered – along with what seemed like the rest of the internet-using world. Several moons later, another track appeared, this one called ‘Jasmine’. And with those opening bass rumbles, I was convinced he was actually intending on breaking my speakers. Much more gentle than his debut single, but still fascinating (exemplary use of side-chaining as I’m sure sound designers would agree), he was clearly onto something. Sounding like Prince taking too much diazepam whilst listening to George Michael via warped cassettes through sub-woofers,, there was nothing before or since that sounded even remotely similar. And then…. Nothing. Not for a while, at least.
I went off to uni, I racked up horrifying amounts of debt, I started to lose my hair and hearing, and I lost a huge amount of weight – yet my lovely reprobate friends would always find ourselves on those greying Brighton mornings, clasping burnt out cigarettes in our yellowed fingers, listening to ‘BTSU’ before the desperate stagger back to our cold and smelly student houses. Jai stayed with us all.
Then, at some point nearing my birthday in second year, an album appeared on Bandcamp. ‘What the fuck is going on?’ me and my disgusting friends exclaimed at each other. ‘Is it him? Did he do this? What’s going on?’. As we huddled around my flickering laptop in my basement room, chain-smoking to keep warm, we heard the first crusty warbles of the ‘album’. And from thereon, we were transfixed. No titles to any of the tracks, available to purchase for a fiver – almost everything you ever wanted from the ‘Paul. But it was mired in controversy, with announcements decrying it’s authenticity, and Jai himself emerging from the woodwork to condemn it. It all simmered down… and then, again, silence.
Until a couple of years ago, when a website was started up. You had to put in your mobile number, and then you got a text with a password to a website called ‘the Paul Institute’. Then you got a track from Jai’s brother, A K Paul. And then, once again, nothing…
…Until about an hour ago!
I dialed in the password sent to me, and had access to a swanky looking page introducing the 2 new signings to the Paul Institute (who have recently acquired the ‘BBC Staff club’ as their headquarters, which made me chuckle – of course the BBC would have a club for their staff). Fabiana Palladino was the first one I listened to, with her track ‘Mystery’. It bears all the hallmarks of a ‘Paul production, albeit much cleaner and less murky. It’s a very smooth track, with Jai’s vocals creeping in at the end of the track – the first official track he has appeared on since Jasmine. The second, Ruthven and his song ‘Evil’ is an absolute banger. It again couldn’t have been produced by anyone other than the Paul brothers.
And what a way to release the tracks. Harking back to the days that raves were announced over a hotline, with the option to ‘express interest in vinyl’ on the website, there was something decidedly old school about it – yet also incredibly modern. With Taylor Swift not releasing her record on any streaming services yet, and with Morrissey releasing his album (and re-releasing his other albums) with pop-up shops in London and LA, selling ephemera from duffel bags to pillow cases (somewhat going against the ‘Re-issue! Re-package! Re-package! Re-evaluate the songs, double pack with a photograph, extra track and a tacky badge’ dictum the Smiths declared to the world), for an artist as widely respected as Jai Paul to do something like this is so refreshing. No build up to it, and I imagine the membership to the Paul Institute has tripled with this news. I am on tenterhooks to see what happens next. Long live it!