Tilly Foulkes reviews Amser Mynd Adra, the debut album from Papur Wal, finding notes of both a sepia autumn and blistering summer in its sonic depths.
Papur Wal’s debut album Amser Mynd Adra has made it’s home on Welsh label Libertino Records. Boasting the likes of Adwaith and N’famady Kouyate, their roster is already seeping with talent, and Papur Wal live up to the expectations set by their peers. The North Walian lo-fi pop rock trio – who are now based in Cardiff – blend 90s slacker riffs with jingling harmonies that wouldn’t go amiss on a pop record from 1970s California. It’s inspired and light-hearted, but more than anything, it’s simply… very fun. Seeming somehow to be both autumnal and from the depths of a July heatwave, Amser Mynd Adra is a refreshing musical feat that is wholly joyful in its disconnection from lockdowns, pandemics and the misery they wrought on us.
The chugging riff of Rhwng Dau Feddwl opens the album with an easy-going, fuzzy welcome. The thrashing guitar pop melodies and the quiet vocals that accompany them defines the carefree haziness of the rest of the record well; there’s a tease throughout that the song is almost about to unravel, but the band aloofly just about keep it together. It’s packed with energy, sounding as though it’s about to burst out of itself at any moment, but it never quite does.
Up next is Arthur, a sleepy love song made up of drowsy vocals that transform into a relaxed chorus of harmonies. The music is a composed celebration of the love we hear about in the lyrics; it’s the type of tune you’d play at a beach campfire with your mates. The leading single, Meddwl Am Hi, is another love song. Supported by energetic drum sections and quick unravelling guitars, it leans into the Seattle grunge scene with full force. It’s also a song destined to be heard at its best live – bouncy and heartfelt, with the joyful vocals sounding self-assured and delighted. Another track with West Coast inspiration, it’s reminiscent of being a teenager in love and the sweet possibilities those feelings so often encapsulate.
Papur Wal’s influences span decades and genres far and wide, and while direct influences are clear here and there, the album as a whole sounds unlike anything else, carving out its own niche from the fusing of the old with the new. Brynchi Haul, in its one minute and fifty seconds total, experiments with merged vocals and tidy, steady drumming patterns. It makes for a Velvet Underground-esque classic in it’s unexpected sweetness; whereas Llyn Llawenydd, with it’s snappy melody and the buoyant, growling vocals would tuck more than comfortably into Lou Reed’s Transformer.
By contrast, the mumbling voice atop the distorted sounds of Haul Chwefror is evocative of Dinosaur Jr. The track sounds as if it’s being played in the far distance. It invokes a certain kind of teenage nostalgia in its build up, before veering off into a jangling melody. Anifeiliaid Anwes (Fi, efo Hi) starts with a Pavement-like burst of energy before expanding to a saxophone led jazz pop harmony; a euphoric staple to the album. Though it’s energetic in its arrival, Anifeiliaid Anwes smooths down to a jazzy, heartfelt instrumental, feeling like the hot sun on your cheeks.
Their songs might often sound like they were made for drinking at a barbecue in the blistering heat, yet there are smuggled moments of quietness that feel more fitting of the changing leaves of October. Nol ac yn Nol is a gradual ballad about anxiety, performed like a ‘50s crooner, and Penblwydd Hapus is a sweet waltz with a quiet vocal. Papur Wal – in just one album – has mastered the blending of such emotions with ease. The highlight of the album is Andrea a Fi – it’s a moment of rest; relaying the story of losing a notebook in Italy and, when it’s found, noticing a stranger’s poem written in it. The song twinkles amongst the rest of the scuzzy rock, in a way that creates a real moment of sublimity. It demonstrates how well the band communicates with its audience. Throughout the album they play with different languages; switching from Welsh to English and here even go for Italian. It’s clear a lot of thought has gone into the curation of each track, and in the fullness of the album each song is delicately strung together to depict the emotions portrayed in the lyrics.
Amser Mynd Adra is a heart-warming debut by a band who clearly love what they do, and know how to do it well. It’s slick in it’s scuzzy slacker-ness, timeless in its execution; sparkling and energetic as any debut could wish to be.
Amser Mynd Adra from Papur Wal is streaming now.
Tilly Foulkes is a fiction and music writer currently studying English Literature at Liverpool John Moores University.
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