Multihyphenate artist Cautious Clay has officially marked his Blue Note Records debut with the release of his new album, KARPEH. Clay, whose real name is Joshua Karpeh, named the project after his family’s surname. The rich and ambitious collection takes listeners along for a deeply personal journey into his ancestral past.
Each track is blessed with reflective narration from various family members and fuels a range of intense emotion. Described via press release as an “introspective song cycle about growth, conceptions of intimacy and lineage,” the album is cleverly divided into three sections to aid our navigation through his full circle revelation.
The quest begins where it started, with a chapter Clay refers to “The Past Explained.” An elder beams with pride as he recounts the maternal nurturing of Clay’s budding musical talent, while the songs that follow capture his own experiences of being born and bred in Cleveland. The project’s lead single “Ohio” concludes this section, as we then move into a more reflective and rebellious space.
Aptly titled “The Honeymoon Of Exploration,” the songs in this chapter are said to “depict some of his experiences with psychedelics, which inspired self-reflection and the desire for deeper forms of intimacy with others.” The two standouts here, “The Tide Is My Witness” and “Glass Face” featuring vocalist Arooj Aftab and rousing bass work from Kai Eckhardt, brilliantly illustrate the unveiling one might experience within such an introspective yet turbulent state.
Our last stop, entitled “A Bitter & Sweet Solitude,” places things in perspective, highlighting the necessity of stillness. “Moments Stolen” closes out the album and offers one last point of clarity with Clay noting, “I’m so afraid of intimacy / There’s nothing you could ever show me.”
On KARPEH, Cautious Clay’s striking songwriting skills combine with masterful musicianship to serve a heaping helping of soothing soul food, leaving us full yet hungry for more.