First Look: Debut Album from Paper Tiger


On the N.C. duo’s new Me Have Fun, jazz, pop, trip-hop and psychedelia all come together in a Portishead-esque samples/keyboards/femme
vox soundscape of astonishing beauty.


By Fred Mills

By way of introduction: Paper
Tiger is an Asheville, NC, -based duo, vocalist Molly Kummerle (of
well-known regional jazz/pop outfit Ruby Slippers) and Isaac Gottfried (aka
MINGLE, noted deejay and remixer). Since joining forces a couple of years ago,
Kummerle and Gottfried have quickly amassed a reputation for crafting brainy
electronica that dips equally into hypnotic trip-hop and danceable, pop-tilting
sampladelica; they were among a handful of local acts selected to perform at last
fall’s MoogFest, which featured such heavy-hitters as Massive Attack, Big Boi,
Jonsi and MGMT. Me Have Fun (Boy Girl
Recordings), their debut, more than reaffirms that reputation – in its quietly
compelling, get-under-your-skin brand of understatement, it actually winds up
saying more than 99% of the new
releases that have appeared so far this year.


First and foremost, Kummerle
brings her jazz-trained pipes to the party with such seductive grace that you
half expect her to step out from behind the stereo speakers wearing nothing but
a sheer silk robe and a coy smile. Yet there’s also a palpable vulnerability to
that voice. The first time you hear her clearly is in the second song, the
title track, cooing “ahh-ahh-mmm” softly, but with purpose, and as the smokey, loungey tune gradually unfolds, the
singer confesses her lust and her confusion and to how her “rules start to come
undone” as she confronts that desire. In her voice, one hears echoes of Dusty
Springfield, Billie Holiday, Beth Orton and Beth Gibbons – fire and ice, ice
and fire.


The Gibbons comparison isn’t
a stray one, by the way; Portishead is the contemporary act that Paper Tiger
most closely resembles, along with fellow Bristolians Massive Attack. Gottfried’s
fertile trove of samples and liberal deployment of keyboards (by both Gottfried
and Kummerle, plus guest Chuck Lichtenberger from stephaniesid) all synch organically
to cast a widescreen, cinematic glow. From the sweeping strings and noirish vibe of “Hibiscus” and the
chilly orchestral minimalism of “Softly” to the eerie-yet-lush “Hugo,” whose
Beach Boys sample is guaranteed to permanently alter the way you hear “Good Vibrations,”
these compositions push beyond merely “compelling” to become insistent, the transformation occurring
on an almost subliminal level. Another band simpatico with Paper Tiger’s crate-digging
aesthetic: Saint Etienne, particularly on the surreal, flute-and-horns flecked
“Paper Tiger” and the dreamy, yearning “Freezer” (with its suite-like
arrangement that slips deliciously into breezy ‘60s pop mode, then back again,
this song is destined to find its way onto a movie or TV show soundtrack with
the right marketing push).


Seamlessly sequenced, with
Gottfried supplying brief (under 30 seconds) instrumental interludes between
each proper song to lend an additional filmic heft to the proceedings, and
remarkably diverse for a quote/unquote “downtempo” project, Me Have Fun is the type of record that
pays dividend after dividend with each new spin. It’s the sound of late-night
romance, of early-morning musings, and of all the refracted beauty of the
daylight that falls between.


Incidentally, don’t bother
Googling the band’s name; it’ll just drive you crazy, as there is also a Dutch
indierock band called Paper Tiger, a rock/funk outfit from Wisconsin called Paper
Tiger, the Doomtree hip-hop collective producer who calls himself Paper Tiger,
some teenage band that goes by the handle of My Paper Tiger, and assorted
non-musical Paper Tiger entities. If you want to chase down this Paper Tiger and hear assorted album
tunes and remixes, go directly to the official website or to the duo’s
MySpace page. But be careful: the music may be atmospheric and dreamy, but it’s
hardly toothless. Once it gets you in its maw, it doesn’t let go. Rrrrowwrrr.


stand alone player Quantcast

Leave a Reply