Puma Blue is an enigmatic artist. Not much is known about the up and coming Londoner– he lists several of his musical favorites on his Bandcamp page, a bibliography ranging from Julie London to Slint. Perhaps it’s his eclectically varied influences that make his own music so captivatingly difficult to pin down.
Puma Blue’s first full release, Swum Baby, is a 5-track EP rife with subtle streaks of these influences. The man behind Puma Blue, Jacob Allen, played and produced most of the project; channels a haunting and lilting style through lo-fi hip-hop beats, jazz chords, and beautifully sparse arrangements. To invoke the cliche, “it’s the notes he’s not playing.”
This concept is particularly evident on the EP’s closer, “Want Me.” A subtle drum groove sits tastefully under ambient static and reverb-laden guitar chords. The product is a drunken, rambling appeal to a former lover, absorbent in its melancholy lament.
Allen’s dreamlike and grainy sound is a unique one that shifts too nimbly to be contained and labeled. He stretches his style from electrifying syncopated grooves to subdued lo-fi programmed drums on his 2018 single, Moon Undah Water. This standalone single was Puma Blue’s first true display of rawness and abrasive grit.
On his latest release, Blood Loss, Allen continues to integrate this power into his music. The project is a 27-minute, 8-track EP that encompasses all corners of Puma Blue’s stylistic vocabulary. “as-is” opens the EP, a cryptic and mumbled showcase of off-kilter dissonance á la King Krule. The following track, “Lust,” exhibits Allen’s penchant for swaggering instrumentals and longing vocal melodies (this time featuring an acoustic version of his usually electronic rim click sound, because variety is the spice of life.) The song creates a potent feeling of intensity and depth while keeping volume and tempo reserved.
Granted, many of Allen’s songs evoke this same feeling. Minor seventh chords drenched in reverb accompanied by a peppering of soft-spoken vocal embellishments and minimal percussion, coming to a slow burn. Just as I began to worry about Puma Blue falling into a rut with his sound, I heard Bruise Cruise.
After an ethereal harp intro, the song starts with a mellow guitar line which is quickly jolted into motion by a fast-paced drum beat. Its structure immediately snaps into place to create an infectious groove for Allen to croon over. “Oh I’m just trying, to make you see.” He repeats this pleading mantra intermittently throughout the song, during which his whimpers morph into howls and screams.
Between his knack for floaty, rich production, and his versatile vocal abilities, Jacob Allen is a true powerhouse as Puma Blue. With a voice that can evoke Elliott Smith and Jimmy Page in the same song, he is certainly bound for musical success. Allen has chiseled himself a very distinct sound that holds a unique place in today’s musical environment, and I sure hope he keeps going.