Papir: Papir III
El Paraiso Records

Perfectly tailored for a twelve-inch vinyl presentation, Papir's fourth full-length IIII sees Copenhagen, Denmark mates Nicklas Sørensen (guitar), Christian Becher (bass), and Christoffer Brøchmann (drums) bringing their particular brand of instrumental power rock to a new level of perfection. It also makes some kind of perfect sense that the label on which Papir's material appears is El Paraiso as it's also the label on which one finds the music of kindred spirits Causa Sui, including its superb 2013 release Euporie Tide (textura's number two album pick of the year, incidentally). Further collapsing the distance between the acts is the fact that IIII was mixed and mastered by none other than Causa Sui guitarist Jonas Munk.

The parallels don't end there. Like Causa Sui, Papir has an affinity for long-form tracks that enables the band to stretch out comfortably (IIII includes two ten-minute tracks as well as a twenty-two-minute behemoth), and the group also likes to thread a number of stylistic shifts into a given piece. The opening “IIII.I,” for example, plunges quickly into a fiery zone of psychedelic rock replete with ample helpings of wah-wah guitar playing before easing first into a pastoral episode of dream-like character that, slowly building in intensity, eventually blossoms into a bruising psych-metal section to take the piece out.

Not surprisingly, IIII's central piece is its longest one, which organically alternates between sequences of atmospheric and ferocious character and captures the band's deft skill as it seamlessly effects the transitions from one episode to another. At the five-minute mark, the music is so fiery, it feels on the verge of implosion, but Becher and Brøchmann hold the music in place whilst still allowing Sørensen to surrender fully to his muse. “IIII.III” also serves as a splendid showcase for the guitarist, who, with casual aplomb, serves up endless volleys of spiky phrases and wild wah-wah shredding. The volcanic heat the three generate during the piece's final minutes, arguably the album's peak, is a wonder to behold. The decision to follow that with a comparatively serene setting of modest duration at recording's end feels right, all things considered.

Though IIII exudes a powerful live feel throughout, Papir isn't averse to using multi-tracking to amplify its sound when the music calls for it, as a middle section in “IIII.III” reveals when Sørensen overlays metronomic patterns into an intricate textural design and the drum attack is amplified with additional percussion flourishes. One of things that makes IIII so appealing is how comfortably the trio adheres to predetermined compositional structures without sounding rigid or uptight. The three navigate the twists and turns of a given piece with an ease and looseness that makes the music sound as if it's naturally emerging in the moment, and no impression of undue constraint characterizes the members' playing. The three mesh with a telepathic ease that suggests many hours of practice and preparation were involved prior to the album's two recording sessions, one of which took place in Copenhagen and the other in the Danish countryside.

February 2014