Papercuts (primarily Jason Quever) may or may not see themselves as part of a burgeoning scene but one can quite easily place them in the midst of other contemporary acts like Vetiver, Beach House and BrightBlack, All these groups share a commonality in folk music though they each stretch and tease the standard version of folk that we have come to know. Papercuts are also connected to two of these bands due to Alex Scally from Beach House contributing to their new album You Can Have What You Want and Andy Cabic of Vetiver being the man behind the Papercuts’ record label Gnomonsong.
The slant that the band take on the folk genre is one rooted in 60s psych pop and at times an 80’s shoegaze vibe. You Can Have What You Want was recorded entirely in analog and you can hear the result in the hazy lushness of it all. The bass and keys are full and rich and you sense a heavy air surrounding the whole affair. Unfortunately the weight and pace of the album is its major detraction. Too often the songs plod when they should sway and they tend to overstay their welcome as on the opening track ‘Once We Walked In The Sunlight’ which at 5 minutes is at least 2 too long.
Dictator’s Lament’ picks up the pace slightly and a Stereolab-esque vocal keeps the song afloat. The organ adds a 60s flavour with its circle swirls and the punchier simple drums. ‘The Machine Will Tell Us So’ tries the same approach but nearly 6 minutes later the silence at the end of the track jolts the listener back from their aurally induced coma. There is nothing particularly annoying or musically wrong with the piece but it doesn’t lull you into the same floating stupor that BrightBlack do so well. They give the music a shimmer and an electrical hum that ensures ones pulse rate doesn’t slip to a abnormal low.
Quever’s voice is a high register softly sung sound. It could in fact sit alongside Mazzy Star or Victoria Legrand (Beach House) in the way it is often submerged, even suffocated in the mix. Making out the words is generally a fruitless exercise and it is best taken as an instrument providing melody and tone within the songs. On ‘Future Primitive’ he does bring it more to the fore and sings with more authority than anywhere else on the album. An upbeat 60s skip, it features some lovely cymbal splashes and a central riff with a vintage bass sound that you’ll find yourself humming long after the album ends. It is the high point of You Can Have What You Want.
On ‘Future Primitive’ Quever sings “We are born to this world, out on loan from the beyond” adding to the ethereal and detached nature of the record. The artwork strengthens this theme with the featureless figures either falling or diving through a hole or entrance to another realm. It could be symbolic of the great unknown or the limitless possibilities created by opening yourself up to what you want.
You Can Have What You Want is a worthy addition to a genre that could be termed dream folk but it lacks an element of structure to stop it becoming overly blissed out and collapsing in slow motion. Vetiver have beaten Papercuts to the soft punch already this year with an album that succeeds where this fails. Quever needs to take a leaf out of his label boss’ songbook and in doing so he could very well produce an album that would stand alongside those other artists currently forging new paths in folk music.