Cautious Clay – Karpeh
„Ein aufregender Tanz zwischen R’n’B und Indie-Songwritertum“
MUSIKEXPRESS über das Vorgängeralbum „Deadpan Love“ (2021)
Cautious Clay ist der Künstlername des in Cleveland, Ohio, geborenen, in New York lebenden Sängers, Songwriters, Produzenten und Multiinstrumentalisten Joshua Karpeh. Aus R&B, Hip-Hop, Leftfield-Indie-Pop und Jazz-Elementen hat sich Cautious Clay einen Namen für poetische und emotional ehrliche Musik gemacht, die sich durch sein anspruchsvolles Songwriting, seinen gefühlvollen Gesang und seinen filmischen Sound auszeichnet.
Seit Veröffentlichung seiner Debütsingle „Cold War“ (2018) ist der 30-Jährige auf Überholspur.
“Cold War” wurde mehr als 150 Millionen Mal gestreamt, in der HBO-Hit-TV-Serie Insecure und Olivia Wildes Film Booksmart eingesetzt, und nicht zuletzt von Taylor Swift auf ihrem Hit-Album „Lover“ gesampelt. Als Songwriter hat Cautious Clay mit Billie Eilish, John Mayer, John Legend, Khalid, Kavinsky, Melanie Martinez, Remi Wolf und anderen gearbeitet.
Mit der am 25. Mai erschienenen Single „Ohio“ kündigte der Künstler seinen nächsten großen Karriereschritt an – die Zusammenarbeit mit dem Jazzlabel Blue Note Records.
Video „Ohio“ hier ansehen:
Auf dem Album „Karpeh“ setzt sich Cautious Clay mit seinen Wurzeln, seiner Abstammung und Familiengeschichte auseinander, erkundet seine Vergangenheit und Gegenwart, auf der Suche nach einer universellen Wahrheit für seine Zukunft. Das Album hat er in drei Kapitel aufgebrochen:
PART 1. THE PAST EXPLAINED
My early life going up in Ohio + my family’s past experiences being the cornerstone of what shaped me for better + worse. Themes of unwavering self-reliance, the „tides“ of family/work life balance, race, + cultural identity are throughout this section.
- 102 Years of Comedy (Intro) 0:33 (Cautious Clay)
- Fishtown 2:57 (Cautious Clay/Hans Galvez)
- Ohio 2:51 (Cautious Clay/Spencer Allen)
- Karpehs Don’t Flinch 2:09 (Cautious Clay)
- The Tide Is My Witness 3:39 (Cautious Clay)
- Take a Half (a Feeling We Chase 0:42 (Cautious Clay)
- Another Half feat. Julian Lage 2:29 (Cautious Clay/Julian Lage)
PART 2. THE HONEYMOON OF EXPLORATION
Branching out from my past/family members before me embracing vices, personal gratification, and deep self-reflection – different forms of intimacy, psychedelic drugs, + togetherness are a crucial part of this section.
- Repeat Myself 2:08 (Cautious Clay/Julian Lage)
- Glass Face feat. Kai Eckhardt and Arooj Aftab 3:17 (Cautious Clay/Kai Eckhardt/Arooj Aftab)
- Walls & a Roof (Interlude) 0:27 (Cautious Clay)
- Unfinished House feat. Julian Lage 2:33 (Cautious Clay/Julian Lage)
PART 3. A BITTER & SWEET SOLITUDE
Learning how to be alone with my „thoughts“ in order to be the healthiest version of myself when I am around friends, family, etc. No matter where I go in life, being alone is a beautiful + eternal truth. There are themes of greed, death, + speaking for myself/my own needs. While this section lacks alot of lyrical content, sonically it is oscillating between heavier/aggressive and more soft/mellow sonic components.
- Blue Lips feat. Julian Lage 4:07 (Cautious Clay/Julian Lage/Oscar Santander)
- 13. Tears of Fate 4:33 (Cautious Clay/Julian Lage)
- Yesterday’s Price feat. Immanuel Wilkins
and Ambrose Akinmusire 5:16 (Cautious Clay/Immanuel Wilkins/Ambrose Akinmusire)
- Moments Stolen 3:57 (Cautious Clay)
Cautious Clay (artistic conception, vocals)
Joshua Karpeh (saxophone, flute, guitar, synthesizer, bass, bass clarinet)
Alwyn Robinson (drums), Joshua Crumbly (bass), Julius Rodriguez (piano), Julian Lage (guitar),
Sean Rickman (drums), Daniel Pappalardo (bass), Kai Eckhardt (bass), Arooj Aftab (vocals)
Joel Ross (vibraphone), Immanuel Wilkins (alto saxophone), Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet)
Meryl Cooper, Titee Marion Karpeh, Olivia Howell, William Dingus and Caitlyn Harris (spoken word)
Georgia Heers, Sarah K. Pedinotti, William Dingus (additional vocals)
Since 2017, Cautious Clay has been steadily building a devoted fanbase with his heartfelt songwriting and a unique sound that moves fluidly between pop, alternative R&B, and indie rock. On his deeply personal Blue Note debut KARPEH, the New York based singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer also known as Joshua Karpeh takes a giant artistic leap forward with an ambitious yet introspective album about growth, conceptions of intimacy, and lineage that reveals a new side of his artistry by delving deeper than ever into his jazz influences.
Across the album’s 15 tracks Cautious can be heard on vocals, flute, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, guitar, synthesizer, and bass. He also invites a wide range of collaborators into the fold including leading lights of the modern jazz world such as guitarist Julian Lage, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, vibraphonist Joel Ross, keyboardist Julius Rodriguez, bassist Joshua Crumbly, and drummer Sean Rickman. Other guests on the album include his uncle, bassist Kai Eckhardt, and the acclaimed Pakistani vocalist Arooj Aftab.
For all of Cautious’ dexterity around multiple instruments, it’s always in service of the music’s narratives. “I wanted it to be musical for the sake of telling a story,” he explains. “Throughout this album, I am equating my life’s journey to an amalgamation of my family’s past life experiences, an exploration of my present, and how those pieces will influence by future.”
Cautious sequenced the album thematically in three sections with interludes throughout containing audio recordings of his family members recounting bits of family history. The first six tracks he calls “The Past Explained” with songs that touch upon his early experiences growing up in Cleveland including the album’s lead single “Ohio.” The song struts to a buoyant fat bassline reminiscent of 1970s-era Isley Brothers as Cautious’ emotive tenor voice floats through a dreamy soundscape with lyrics depicting a young Joshua exploring his options in a vast heartland. The first section also features “Karpehs Don’t Flinch,” a mostly instrumental number that showcases Cautious’ blustery tenor saxophone melodicism. His distinctive saxophone sound is also heard on “The Tide Is My Witness,” a propulsive track featuring Rickman’s invigorating drums.
The middle section of the album is what Cautious calls “The Honeymoon of Exploration.” These five songs depict some of his experiences with psychedelics, which inspired self-reflection and the desire for deeper forms of intimacy with others. The moving ballad “Another Half” expresses this yearning for togetherness and features extraordinary guitar work from Lage; the trippy, reverb soaked, “Glass Face,” which features haunting vocals from Aftab and virtuosic bass work from his uncle Kai; and the poignant “Unfinished House” on which Cautious sings about a house that his paternal grandfather worked on in Washington state but never completed during his lifetime. He explains that the unfinished house became a metaphor for the fraught relationships his grandfather had with his grandmother and their seven children.
The concluding four songs constitute the third thematic section, which Cautious calls “A Bitter & Sweet Solitude.” Cautious posits that when we allow ourselves to spend quality time in solitude it enables us to forge better relationships with ourselves and others, therefore sparking deeper intimacy. This portion contains some of the most unbridled moments of jazz improvisation on the album, including the Lage showcase “Blue Lips,” “Tears of Fate” featuring Cautious’ alluring flute, and the fiery “Yesterday’s Price” on which Cautious’ dynamic tenor saxophone solo leads into a flaring solo by Akinmusire before concluding with an explosive statement by Wilkins. “‘Yesterday’s Price’ is probably the heaviest song on the album,” Cautious states. “The song is about speaking one’s truth and expressing it in the most intimate and rawest form.”
The album closes with the ethereal ballad “Moments Stolen” – a reimagining of Cautious’ song “Stolen Moments” which appeared on his acclaimed 2018 EP Blood Type. The song reiterates the theme of solitude with vulnerable revelations about the fear of intimacy.
Growing up, Joshua’s parents would play classic R&B and jazz around the house. At age seven, he decided to learn the flute. His teacher Greg Pattillo—who later became a YouTube viral music star from his “Beatbox Flute” series—showed Joshua how to approach the instrument in a creative, contemporary way. In high school, he took up the saxophone and played in the school jazz band, as well as jazz groups and rock bands around town. Joshua moved to Washington DC for college where he majored in International Affairs and minored in Jazz at George Washington University. He also began to write and produce tracks himself, honing his own musical identity as Cautious Clay on Soundcloud.
Cautious began receiving wide recognition with the release of Blood Type featuring his breakthrough single “Cold War,” a naked call for emotional honesty and transparency that resonated deeply with listeners and has since been streamed more than 150 million times. The song was featured on Issa Rae’s hit HBO TV show, Insecure, and Olivia Wilde’s movie, Booksmart, and was interpolated by Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff on “London Boy” from the pop star’s album Lover. Cautious’ other outside writing and production credits include working with Billie Eilish, John Mayer, John Legend, Khalid, Kavinsky, Melanie Martinez, Remi Wolf, and more.
Following two more EPs—Resonance and Table of Context—Cautious released his debut full-length, Deadpan Love in 2021, delivering on his early promise with an album that centered on the balance between oneself and others. With his Blue Note debut KARPEH, Cautious Clay offers an even more intimate glimpse inside his highly biographical artistic vision.
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Universal Music Jazz (Deutsche Grammophon GmbH)
Stralauer Allee 1, 10245 Berlin
Blue Note Records / Universal Music
CD 00602455742964 / LP 00602455742971