Sunday 17 February 2013


The standout at last year’s SPOT Festival in Denmark were Papir, an instrumental trio that didn’t initially feel as though they ought to be there. Powerful and immersive, the only Nordic things which came to mind to measure them against were Swedish progg and the Supersilent/Rune Grammofon Norwegian end of things. At that point, Papir seemed on their own - at least in Denmark. Then there were thoughts of Ash Ra Temple.

Their third album, the terrific III, has just been issued by the fascinating El Paraiso label and it’s as sinuous, psychedelic and densely shaded as they were live. Each of the five pieces on the album doesn’t have a title - Papir III: I, Papir III: II and so on (no Roman numerals). Papir are Christoffer Brøchmann (drums), Christian Becher Clausen (bass) and Nicklas Sørensen (guitar).

From the suburbs of Copenhagen, Papir coalesced as an instrumental outfit in 2008. They met at music school. All three had played in bands beforehand.

III is a blast, a full-on expression of band at one with what they’ve decided to do. Papir’s grasp of texture makes the louder passages more impactful while, although they are highly technical musicians, there’s nothing flashy. Balance is partly what it’s about. Structure too.

Yet, however great the album and their extraordinary live shows (well, ok, I’ve seen just the one), the question about place remains – they don’t seem to be part of the international post-rock, instro-rock world or post-Krautrock, post-Tortoise scene.

Perhaps that’s partially do with not being about musical architecture (like Explosions In The Sky) or perhaps it’s simply to do with being one-offs in Denmark? Either way, the release of III offered an opportunity to check in with Christoffer.

Asked if Papir slot into anything Danish, Christoffer says “in a way we are a one-off, or at least we don’t know anyone here in Denmark playing the same blend of instrumental music as we do. But we do share some ideals about the approach to making instrumental music with our label mates Causa Sui - a musical friendship based around a common spirit.” Papir’s members also play informally with Electric Moon, Øresund Space Collective and the El Paraiso Records Ensemble.

The pieces evolve from, as Christoffer explains, “listening to each other. Even though we all have a passion for diving into more uncertain free form or jamming territory, we have been playing together for so many years we have come to reach a common and intuitive understanding of creating music together. We start out by recording some free-form jams. Then we listen through these recordings and pick out the parts we find interesting - if there are any. Then we start to jam from these selected parts and record the jams of these selected parts. We then usually go on to a process of working with the form and the structure and in the end the jams evolve into more composed pieces. But we always try to keep improvisation important to the pieces. When playing live, we sometimes like to try out unfinished pieces and see where it goes. Some pieces are often completed in the studio.”

Contrary to the impression from SPOT, where they didn't easily rub musical shoulders with others playing, Papir do have an audience at home. “We don’t have many fans compared to mainstream artists,” says Christoffer. “But our last two records are now sold out and it looks like a lot of people have already pre-ordered the new album. In January, we played our first concert in half a year in a small club and the place was totally packed and we sold a lot of records.”

As to why they decided to be an instrumental band. “When we had a lead singer it always felt natural to just jam,” says Christoffer. “When the last singer left, it felt natural for us to go on as an instrumental band. Playing with a lead singer there are some pretty boring conventions connected to the roles of the different instruments. We find ourselves better off without those conventions, accommodating more freedom, focusing on the interplay and collective energy, releasing more space to explore non-hierarchical structures.”

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