Like James Blake and King Krule? Puma Blue’s debut EP operates in the same murky waters

South Londoner Puma Blue’s new EP is a lesson in duality. Through 8 jazz-flecked tracks, the songs unravels both gently and with a sense of urgency. At once, it is forthcoming and introspective, but evasive and brooding. It’s an insight into a rising artist that one would do best to not ignore.

We asked the musician to give us an insight into new EP ‘Blood Loss’, because who better to reveal their tricks than the artist…

Blood Loss

Blood Loss, an album by Puma Blue on Spotify

The title ‘Blood Loss’ is referring to vulnerability, losing your life-force – being in a weakened state. This EP felt like an acceptance and admittance of my shortcomings & a reflection on times over the previous year that I wasn’t doing so well, and trying to be as unguarded as possible in order to see the beauty in losing something precious.

1. As-Is

This track was always intended to be an introduction piece that set up the rest of the record. It didn’t originally have the poem to go with it, but I had these words that felt so fitting with the themes I was trying to convey, it felt like the perfect way to set the tone. The arrangement was inspired by Tom Waits’ ‘Swordfishtrombones’ and a Sun City Girls track my friend put me onto a few years ago.

The lyrics are saying to someone, ‘I never would have chosen to go our separate ways willingly’, with all its intimate details; even through dark times in our lives it was a comfortable place. But then it goes on to say, when things ended, she slipped out of sight and seemed to fade and disappear, as if dead in my mind, and I had to get rid of the memories to move past it. Metaphorically put them somewhere I couldn’t see, buried, but not in the ground, more in a safe place, like under the bed.

But the point in the last line and across the whole record is, in doing that, I kept the memories just as they were, pure and untainted. Because if good things can’t come from bad things, then what’s the lesson? What’s the point? It’s honouring the good and the bad equally.

2. Lust

This is an older track. I think I wrote it back in 2015 or 2016, but it felt like a really relevant reflection that fed into this flow of these songs. The EP starts and ends with the same lyrical theme of acceptance and letting go, and the tracks in the middle explore the space in-between, I guess.

Lust is simply about fantasy, and the grey lines between friendship and sex and falling in love, as well as wrestling with the voice in your head that tries to drag you down into a dark place.

3. BC/Rift

This song was kind of a second part to my song ‘Soft Porn’ in terms of the lyrics, and it’s another older track. It was originally a beat I made to give to an MC friend of mine but I ended up developing it live and it became my track ‘Bruise Cruise’. Then I came back to it and re-wrote the lyrics for this version.

It’s just about being so tired, and emotionally worn down, to the point where your light has been extinguished. But not wanting that to effect the person you’re with. The lyrics are saying, ‘I have nothing left to give and I’m so numb, but I don’t want you to suffer too from trying to wade me out’.

4. limbo lake

The title refers to this deep, dark, all consuming limbo that you experience when you’re waiting to hear from someone and filling in the blanks.

I always wanted Midnight Blue to have a kind of prefix section that felt somewhere between a Chopin piece and a Radiohead intro. There’s this sample in there from one of the nights on tour earlier this year of me and my friend Luke talking outside in a thunderstorm, and this guitar sound that I tried to make sound like my girlfriend’s car door chime noise…

5. Midnight Blue

Midnight Blue was a song I half-wrote whilst I was in a relationship, imagining what it would be like for it to end, and then finished when it did actually end. This was the track I spent the most time on in terms of production and I think I’m the most proud of it as a song. Maybe of anything I’ve ever written actually. I was just really grateful to be able to finally write something that had almost everything in it that I try to do in my music, even a heavy breakdown section at the end.

I took a lot of care on the drums and hidden vocal layers and stuff. I was going for something like what I’d imagine a Dilla/Portishead/Jeff Buckley collaboration to sound like, and I don’t know if I really managed that, but that’s OK, too. I actually really hated this song before my band made me reconsider it, so maybe that’s why I like it so much, it was kind of a surprise.

6. Ether

This was the first track I decided to put on the EP. I hadn’t done anything like this before. I just tried to muster up the loneliest, bittersweet chords I could muster up and got this drum loop going that was really lazy and hypnotising and then I just spoke this poem over the top and had a little cry after.

I was originally writing the poem from the perspective of my ex after we broke up, about the disappointment of love coming to an end, but then it turned into a piece about reconciliation and reminiscing special memories one last time before they are forgotten and lost for good.

I got my Dad to play some trombone at the end of the track, which was really emotional because he hadn’t played in years and for other personal reasons, and he was embarrassed that he didn’t sound super clean and strong but I couldn’t emphasise enough how much I loved the rawness of his playing. It was such a beautiful moment, I’m so glad we were able to make that happen.

7. Bruise Cruise

This was written around the same time as ‘Lust’ and has been the rowdy track in my live sets for a few years already, but I could never figure out how to record it in a way that would work. After listening to enough Rage Against The Machine and James Chance though I just decided, fuck it, and got the band in the studio for a couple days.

The lyrics are about knowing the person you are falling in love with could hurt you, and debating whether to trust them with that and open up. I guess also there are themes about the ugliness of jealousy and how poisonous it can be. This was a tune I just had to get out of my system. And it was kind of a little bit an anti melancholy-soft-boi-singer/songwriter track. I mean, those labels are fine but I still listen to Deftones and early Slipknot way more than I let on. My friend Marysia recorded the most beautiful harp for the intro as well, it’s probably my favourite bit of the track.

8. close

This was fittingly the last track I wrote that ended up on the EP and is just about everything coming to an end – to the close. It just says, I put so much energy into trying to hold on but it’s the realisation that it’s time to be graceful and let this person go and be free and to make it as easy for them to let you go in return as possible. The sounds were really influenced by John Frusciante’s album ‘Niandra LaDes & Usually Just A T-shirt’, and Burial’s self titled and ‘Untrue’ albums, as well as Frank Ocean. The main track ends the same way ‘as-is’ starts, with this warped sound I sampled from one of my childhood video games.

Also it felt fitting that the vocals of the first track would be some of my lowest, and in this track would be pitched up, I guess because it sort of signified an ascension or finding contentment in closure or something. Right at the end after the track has faded out completely, there’s this hidden part that fades in that I added last minute, of the ocean from the artwork and these wind chimes my girlfriend recorded us playing in Atlanta out in the US a few weeks ago. It just felt like a really significant moment, making sounds together in this peaceful place.

Blood Loss is out now on Blue Flowers