It may be seven years since he released a solo record, but José has been anything but idle in that time. He’s delivered two albums with the band Junip, his more fulsome, electronic-edged, pop project and has toured with both the Berlin/Göteborg String Theory orchestra (in 2011), co-performing 11 reworking’s of his songs, Sidi Touré and played with Malian desert blues troupe Tinariwen (both in 2012). In 2013, Hollywood came calling when Ben Stiller commissioned José to work with Theodore Shapiro on the soundtrack to his remake of ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ and most recently, he’s contributed his version of ‘This is How We Walk On the Moon’ to the Red Hot charity compilation honouring Arthur Russell. Community and collaboration are obviously satisfying in their own ways, but now José is again stepping centre stage solo, with Vestiges & Claws.
Conceived as the natural third part in an acoustic trilogy, Vestiges & Claws is a(nother) hushed and delicate solo set that forefronts the artist and guitarist’s compellingly intimate vocal style and intricate playing technique, but it’s often strikingly rhythmic in nature and cohere’s perfectly, with hand claps and taps on the body of his instrument underlining the songs’ mantric rise-and-fall pattern, while elsewhere, over-dubbed guitar parts and multi-tracked vocal harmonies entwine to sweetly immersive effect.
The title refers to both cultural practices and biological features that survive despite having lost their original function, and to currently useful tools, ie the “claws” of modern life.
Vestiges & Claws was recorded almost entirely by José and self-produced, mostly in his Gothenburg home, using computer plug-ins to achieve a warm, analogue sound. He prefers working alone, mainly for artistic reasons. “There were a couple of things that enabled me to complete this record: one was curiosity, to be able to play percussion and do a lot of harmonies and also to produce and mix the album; the other was aesthetics. I love to listen to Arthur Russell and Shuggie Otis, to music that has been done mostly by one person in their solitary state.”
As José sees it, the record is his personal, “zoomed-out eye on humanity on a small, pale blue dot in a cold, sparse and unfriendly space. The amazing fact that we are all here, an attempt at encouraging us to understand ourselves and to make the best of the one life we know we have – after birth and before death.”