„Nouvelle takes the soul back to the future.“ wrote the Guardian, a newspaper not given to facile superlatives. That was three years ago. Now, with his second album, the studio magician Pablo Nouvelle has created a new future. Instead of building up his tracks from samples of old records, the sound of the organic human voice is now at the centre of his music. Free from any mental associations and memories that samples of well-known recordings might trigger in the listener, „All I Need“ creates an almost physical sense of landscape and distant horizons. It is still perfectly possible to dance to Pablo Nouvelle’s music, of course. However, in a different context the beats might also turn into the pulse of meditative contemplation.
Pablo Nouvelle’s first musical love was hip-hop. Wu-Tang Clan. “One day,” he remembers, “I realised that if I was honest to myself I had to admit that I liked the song passages much better than the raps.” Soon he discovered that these passages were mostly based on samples that were taken from the deep past of the American soul history. Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway and Willie Wright became his constant companions on the Walkman. At the same time, Nouvelle launched the pop/soul duo Gameboi with whom he released two albums and scored a handful of radio hits. However, unhappy with the artistic trajectory his nascent musical career was taking, he entered art school to study film animation. It was a masterstroke of unplanned planning. His degree piece, a short film called “Bon Voyage” which was as funny as it was sharply political and topical, earned him several awards at film festivals around the world. Enough to enable him to concentrate fully on his music.
Pablo Nouvelle’s debut album, crafted meticulously in his home studio, was deeply rooted in his fascination with the history of American soul music. In the UK especially, it was received with great enthusiasm. “Essential listening,” wrote Mixmag. BBC Radio 6, Radio xfm and quite a few trendy blogs shared this view. Two EPs were released by the London-based Black Butter label. Performances at festivals such as Pal?o Nyon, Transmusicales Rennes, the Great Escape Brighton, or the Reeperbahn Festival Hamburg proved that Pablo Nouvelle was more than capable of making the transition from studio to stage. His spring 2015 tour took in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and the UK as well as Switzerland. He also completed a highly successful four-week residence at Pride Warehouse Club in Berlin. Over the last couple of years, Pablo Nouvelle has also managed to build a strong reputation as a remixer, working on tracks by Marina & the Diamonds, Aurora, Coasts, Sailor & I, Gorgon City and Aurora, amongst many others.
Pablo Nouvelle recorded around forty new tracks before choosing his favourite fifteen for his second album, “All I Need”. Asked to pin-point some influences on his work with keyboards and drum machines, he lists the likes of Bonobo, the XX, Radiohead and Frank Ocean. The element “soul” is provided by a number of female and male guest vocalists. “It was important to me that I had a broad palette of differently coloured voices available to me,” he says. “Almost every song has a different voice. Here and there they are used almost like samples, with only a short dash to hint at a certain mood. It was important to me to create a strong feeling of space and mood.”
The catchy ‘Hold On’, to pick one example, was recorded in one session with the Swiss singer/songwriter James Gruntz. “Paint“ is the result of a late night session in the kitchen of Norma Jean Martine, the London-based singer from New York. “Coastline” came out of an encounter in Los Angeles with Gavin Turek, according to Spin magazine one of “five artists to watch out for”. The diversity of the voices is a crucial element in creating an album which never repeats itself and yet unmistakably contains the vision of an artist who very much knows his mind.
Any samples that still do pop up on “All I Need” are taken from sessions conducted, recorded and edited by Nouvelle himself: “To conduct a session is a similar process as directing a film,” he says. There is one exception to the “no-outside samples” rule: Like a dessert, it follows right at the end. Album title track “All I Need” is based on a sample from “If This World Were Mine”, a song Marvin Gaye once sang in a duet with Tammi Terrell. “That sample is an important statement for me,” says Nouvelle. “It pays homage to my musical roots as well as to the act of sampling, a true art form in itself.”
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