There’s a famous quote from the iconic 70s soul singer, Donny Hathaway. Describing his love of music and in particular the blues, he says “... When I think of music, I think of music in its totality, complete – from the lowest blues to the highest symphony.”
It’s an all encompassing statement, burrowing deep into the vast spectrum of music. It’s also an outlook that British producer Karnaval Blues looked toward for inspiration when writing and recording his debut EP, ‘You Come With The Rain.’ He’s even sampled the quote on a lush track mid-way through the project, called “Quiet Places”. “I wanted to capture the landscape of what he’s talking about,” he says, explaining how Hathaway came to influence the approach to the EP’s sound.
Like much of the blues, the project was conceived from a relatively downbeat situation. Around two years ago, Karnaval Blues was working in a bank – “a real 9-5, grey and lifeless, stereotypical, mind draining, bad job.” But each evening when headed home, he’d sit back at his desk and dive into a brand new world: one of jazz samples, lovelorn and fragile vocals, rose-tinted memories.
Thematically, ‘You Come With The Rain’ associates itself with the downfall of a relationship, the raw emotion of looking back into the past and the way it comes to tint the future. “It’s about loss, getting over someone, the separation – and the nostalgia that comes from that,” he offers, of the narrative that underpins the EP – and is one that plays out and builds with each song. He continues: “I want this record to be listened to from beginning to end. I don’t see it as two singles then the rest is there to make it a full album. It’s a full project.”
Listen through in one sitting and you’ll get a clear sense of what Karnaval Blues intention is with that approach, as each song continues on from one another. There are elements of self-reference and repeated lyrics. At times, there’s a continuous tone – one that places the listener in a rain-soaked environment with drizzle pouring down, as if to place them directly into a specific scene, the assonance of someone drifting away soaking out through the headphones.
“It’s based on real life experiences, there are a few songs on there about those early days of being away from someone, when you find someone new but they don’t compare in any way,” explains Karnaval Blues. Certainly, there’s an evocative, sentimental yearning to the lyrics on the EP – with lines like “I watched our love fall apart / you were the storm before the calm” and “I hope you’re missing me”.
But just as the project reflects the lowest blues, those moments of late-night longing and reflection, it also reaches that high symphony too – when looking back feels a lot warmer than it is painful. There’s a feeling of not wanting to leave some behind, because it feels so sweet, even if things are bad. As a result, the EP is up-tempo, near club-ready in places or at least built to pick you up.
There’s a sampling elements to the music too. As well as blues greats like BB King and John Coltrane, some of Karnaval Blues’ favourites are rooted in the beat-making world – people like J Dilla and Nujabes, which helps shade the project in flashes of light. “It really is rooted in crate-digging,” he says. “And with the name, I liked the juxtaposition between the blues and the vibe of a carnival – where it’s upbeat and joyful and high energy emotion.”
As the next release to come from the Mind of a Genius family, the EP is in good hands too. Label mate Zhu even features on the project, on opening track “Liquor In My Vein” – recorded together when Karnaval Blues had been invited out to LA by the label, where he spent several months sleeping in the studio and on floors, working on this project.