You’d be forgiven for thinking an artist releasing their debut EP would be relatively inexperienced. However guitarist and singer Paj has been around the block, touring Europe and supporting the likes of Haitus Kaiyote along the way. He’s dropped instrumental projects before but this is the first instance Paj has given a full body of work to the world, complete with vocals. ‘Pastel’ is the result of years of perfecting his craft and drawing inspiration from artists ranging from Thundercat to James Blake.
Written across four years and three continents, the EP Initially manifested off the back of a break-up later evolving into a record of wider scope, challenging notions of love, death, growth and conflict.
On what artists inspired the EP Paj said, “listening to Stevie Wonder obsessively in my teens, my brothers showing me Hendrix & Oumou Sangare, living in USA and discovering D’Angelo & J Dilla, seeing (& supporting) Thundercat & Hiatus Kaiyote, and also spending time in West Africa three years ago.”
“I went to Mali to learn about the guitar styles, living as a local and came back as a way more intense version of myself, but also full of fire to put my music out there – since then the tunes haven’t stopped flowing.”
Utilising twinkling keys to complement a colourful optimism throughout the five tracks, there’s a distinct patience and tranquility that glues the piece together cohesively.
“Before I picked up a guitar aged 15, I was all about art, drawing, painting, ‘Pastel’ is like a manifesto to connect with my child spirit that mixes colours & materials with wild abandon, open and honestly.”
The lead single ‘Fly On’ from the project borrows percussion from hip hop to pay tribute to a late mentor. Despite the often on the nose influences from previous eras, there’s a modern touch in the vocals and production. Coupled with the numerous emotive cuts it creates a thoroughly engaging debut EP.
“When I think about it it’s really quite indulgent but I see this privilege and want to use it for good, and when it’s working well it’s like the music flows through me from somewhere else and it raises everybody’s spirit. There’s something very disarming and brave about honesty.”
Photography: Abe Neihum