Papir, IIII: Sand, Space and Between

IIII is the fourth Papir album in about as many years. The Copenhagen trio of guitarist Nicklas Sørensen, bassist Christian Becher Clausen and drummer Christoffer Brøchmann made a self-titled debut in 2010 and followed in 2011 with Stundum, their first release on El Paraiso Records, run by Jonas Munk and Jakob Skøtt of Causa Sui. Munk would produce their early 2013 full-length, III, and a collaboration with Electric Moon, dubbed The Papermoon Sessions (review here), followed later in the year. With IIII, Papir step back into their own gorgeous krautrock ambience, proffering four tracks/48 minutes of semi-improvisational instrumental work that’s concerned neither with genre nor heft, but sonically uplifting and creatively open. The cuts — “I” (10:45), “II” (9:35), “III” (21:43) and “IIII” (5:15) — run deep and personal despite their I-only titles, the effect of which is to make one think not necessarily of Roman numerals, for which the last would be “IV,” but more like the bars on the album artwork, reminding of some sort of schematic or engineering grid, if not for the bars as representing actual people, paired off as some are. Sure enough, Papir seem to be working from a schematic of their own on this material, though they end up with a breadth that’s bound to test the limit of any blueprint from which it might be working.

It’s immediately noteworthy that “IIII,” which is the de facto title-track of the album, doesn’t appear on the vinyl version. That makes the runtimes on the two sides of the LP just about even and keeps IIII over the 40-minute mark in total, but it makes side B comprised entirely of “III” which only furthers the notion that that song is practically a full-length unto itself. Prior to, on side A, Papir begin with the intricate runs of “I,” all the members of the band making simultaneous entry amid gracefully mounted, unforced atmospherics. The splash in Brøchmann‘s cymbals has as much of an effect on those atmospheres as does Sørensen‘s guitar or its interplay with Clausen‘s bass, which takes an early solo leading the way past the first minute of “I.” Early on, Papir leave little room for choice. If you’re going to go with “I,” you have to go with it. When they start, they’re already off and moving, and by the time they hit the dreamy midpoint from which they build the lush second half of the track, the hypnotic effect that remains in place for the remainder of the side, “II” moving in linear fashion from a subdued beginning to fervent-but-not-overdone payoff and then lingering with enough of progressive atmospheric naturalism that I was looking to see if I might’ve missed a Gary Arce guest appearance somewhere along the line.

No dice on that, but it’s one more stylistic element that Papir work into their fluid sprawl. Nowhere on IIII is that expanse more centered than “III,” and maybe that’s unfair because in comprising all of the vinyl’s second half, it’s bound to be a focal point, but it’s true all the same. As a single piece, it enacts a full-album-style front-to-back flow, unfolding the wings over the course of its first couple minutes that will carry it through to its finish, Clausen keeping a tension in his bassline that lets the listener know even if they’re not looking at the tracklisting that something grand is underway amid Sørensen‘s peaceful noodling and the wash of Brøchmann‘s cymbals. There is a swirl at hand, and it doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to call the song psychedelic, but it’s important to point out that Papir never lose sight of the human side of the jam in favor of a lush construction. “III” is rich, open and progressive, coming on in two major wah-soaked waves with a quiet stretch between as the build restarts. Synth, effects and added percussion are all a factor in the heavy rock thrust that emerges, but Papir are never out of control of what they’re doing, and the result is a glorious high point to the rampantly exploratory work that is the album taken as a whole.

Obviously, coming after “III” and having been left off the vinyl version of IIII doubtless for the fact that it wouldn’t fit, “IIII” is something of an afterthought upon its arrival, but though comparatively brief at 5:15, it’s also one of IIII‘s most engaging atmospheres, recalling some of the ethereal desert-ism at the end of “II” in the guitar while far-off toms hold steady behind. With one recording session for the album having taken place in Copenhagen proper and another in the Danish countryside — the latter once again helmed by Munk — it’s easy to imagine a progression like that of “IIII” arising from an attempt on the band’s part to translate a natural serenity into sound, though of course whether or not that’s how “IIII” came about, I don’t know. Nonetheless, the spirit of the closer is no less evocative for its relatively short duration than any of the other pieces on IIII and proves a serene, engaging finish to the trance in which Papir seem to prone to lead their listeners, easing back to reality with steady organ-ic hum and ringing tones. Clearly meant to be taken in its entirety, Papir‘s fourth delivers a rich listening experience that’s as satisfying to get lost in as it is easy to appreciate for its boldly progressive drive. It is both otherworldly and definitively of this earth, and presents a spin on heavy psychedelic rock that seems to belong solely to Papir.

Papir, “I” from IIII (2014)

Papir on Thee Facebooks

Papir at El Paraiso Records

Tags: , , , , ,

One Response to “Papir, IIII: Sand, Space and Between”

  1. […] reading: THE OBELISK – REVIEW: Papir, IIII (Courtesy of JJ Koczan / The […]

Leave a Reply