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Papir – V


Papir - VPapir are a young power trio from Copenhagen plying an expansive take on instrumental guitar music. Together since 2010, V is, as the Roman numeral suggests, their fifth album and squeezes just seven tracks onto two discs, lasting as a little over an hour and a half. Brevity is not their strong suit. There are no tracks under ten minutes and the album closer lasts for twenty-five minutes. Now, as far as I am concerned, instrumental guitar based music where no attention is paid to track lengths and where John McEntire is involved at the mixing desk is right up there with what constitutes a prime listening experience for me.

I didn’t know too much about the band before the album arrived, but I did happen across a copy of their second album Stundum so picked that up for a reference listen. If you release an album over two platters, recorded in four consecutive days with five tracks and a running time of eighty minutes, clearly you like to jam, but also you like to let the track run if the mood takes you. It was a great listen and allowed me a little more appreciation of just what the band has to offer.

There are two distinct feels to the two discs of V, almost as if one were night and the other day. The first disc is the day, if you like, and has a kind of positive vibrancy that is unusual with the kind of extended guitar jam work that we often hear. The tone of the bass chords on opener “V.I” are warm and lilting. I felt a warm ocean swell and a Mediterranean sun on my back while listening to this as a boat propels me towards some hidden cove. When the guitars come in, they are like sea spray across the bows and the drums sit gently in the background, allowing the drama to unfold, and drama there is.

As the guitar washes become more pronounced, the rhythm changes into a ’70s style groove, so where most tracks would have ended and track two is cued up, we just have another chapter of this unfolding sonic tale. This band are so locked in to one another it is quite extraordinary; as the various chapters unfold, guitars come in and out of the mix, drum intensity comes and goes and the bass matches the guitar pound for pound.

It can’t help but happen that if the tracks are clocking in at such lengths and when a band clearly doesn’t know when to stop, twists and turns will abound. This whole album is like book of short stories and although the band is basically guitar bass and drums, they manage to infuse each track with a sense of its own adventurous narrative. “V.II” has a slightly gentler intro, the bass is less prominent and there is a touch of “Albatross” about the keening guitar tones. The beat is metronomic and doffs a cap to Jaki Liebezeit and as the song begins its transformation, the lovely ascending bass chords roil and unfurl, the guitar all fuzzy and warm lifting into a real high flying solo, screaming and crying, blinking into the daylight like a prisoner released from the longest stretch. It is clear that the guitarist is a fan of the seventies in all its forms, as we can see Can and we can also hear that euphoric Miles Davis sound coming through.

Overall, it is the boundlessness that really hits you though. “V.III” is hesitant in the intro and a little more thoughtful, but often the intros will last for two or three minutes and you think that you have the track pegged when it meanders off in some unforeseen direction. It is usually heading for a kind of euphoric guitar workout, but the means by which that conclusion arrives are varied every time. There’s loads of flange on “V.IV” and the guitar really soars and swoops, but the bassist and drummer are the magic here. Tom-toms arrive towards the end and the bassist treats his instrument like he is flinging a guitar around and some of the high notes that he reaches are incredible. At times, the pair are duelling and the sounds are terrific.

The second disc has only three tracks and is the slower and sleepier of the two, the slight comedown to the uproar of the first disc or perhaps that smoky morning light that comes with such welcome after a wild night. There is a bass drone on opener “V.V” and that is a comforting texture against he weeping of the reverb heavy guitar. The mood continues into “V.VI” and we are washed with a long, warm sonic treatment that still doesn’t prepare us for the slow, beatless intro to “V.VII”.

The gentle, nursing drums eventually kick in and accompany the enormous reverb as the crystalline bass throbs intermittently to an almost overwhelming point before drifting beatless again. There is a whirlpool of effects, but the feeling is of watching all this from some vantage point in a salt soaked sea, suspended and washed clean. The bass is a warm ripple towards the end of the track and this inertia seems like a natural conclusion to the trip started with the vibrancy of the opening track.

A journey with a power trio, keening guitar, gorgeous textural bass and the most telepathic drummer who knows exactly what each moment of each track needs. Who could ask for more?

-Mr Olivetti-

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