Puma Blue In Praise of Shadows Blue Flowers Music
It’s not too much of an oversimplification to suggest that Jacob Allen’s songwriting first flourished as a direct consequence of chronic insomnia. Certainly, it was during the restless early hours that the south-east London singer honed his sound as Puma Blue, developing an intimate strain of jazz-tinged soul that felt uncannily attuned to its lonely genesis.
As the comparatively sprawling list of credits on In Praise of Shadows proves, Allen’s musical universe has expanded significantly in the four years since his self-produced single, Want Me. And yet, working in conjunction with collaborators including Marta Salogni (Björk, Frank Ocean, FKA twigs) and Kwake Bass (Mica Levi, Sampha, Kae Tempest), Allen has retained that sense of vulnerability while further pushing the parameters of Puma Blue as a project.
Sleep and dreams dominate Allen’s imagination, not just lyrically but in the hushed, hallucinatory quality of his sensitively-rendered arrangements. Oil Slick pairs fluid chord progressions with swirling, jazz percussion, while Snowflower unfurls from a base of woozy keys, pitch-shifted vocals and a ramshackle click track. Even more startling is Velvet Leaves which finds Allen meditating on his sister’s suicide attempt, amongst pillowy-soft vocal harmonies and feather-light brush work, before climaxing in Jeff Buckley-esque chord progressions and a plummeting cello line.
A mood piece as much as it is an album, this dimly-lit debut feels purpose-built to soundtrack the long, dark nights stretching ahead of us.