Electronic Jazz collective Paper Tiger go rogue on hip hop fusion album
“Got the groove in my heart, starting to move. This is art mother fucker and this shit in la Louvre.”
Having previously released Laptop Sultan (2013), Blast Off (2016), and the four part series Sonic Boom Head Zoom, Paper Tiger have returned to space-funk electronica this year with a new cosmic album that fuses hip hop and jazz - Rogue Planet. Merging classic composition of instrumental jazz with modern techniques and equipment, this ethereal and psychedelic album seamlessly flows from one song to another. Each track builds on the previous numbers and transforms the direction of the album, so the record is more appreciated as a one piece world-building concept - you’ve got to listen from start to finish. The futuristic electronic beats and rappers’ delivery immediately tell you this is fresh from the UK hip hop scene, where jazz fusion, which has recently been having a South London revival, is blossoming in the North too.
Rogue Planet has a theme of modern sci-fi, particularly in it’s instrumentation, discussed through a northern lens. There’s that witty British humour, sometimes silly or strange, but engagingly articulate storytelling. It’s always enjoyable to hear British voices in hip hop throwing around unfiltered playfulness and comedic rhyming, with rapper Raphael Attar telling the listener “Got the groove in my heart, starting to move. This is art mother fucker and this shit in la Louvre.” Whilst the opening track may feel somewhat dystopian in its sound, the lyrics suggest the album is going to be more of a dark comedy in tone. The album moves through to the sleekly produced and explorative chillout tracks that are far groovier than ‘Yeah, Yeah’ would lead you to believe.
A standout number on the new record comes second with ‘The Cycle’ featuring Steve Spacek. A horn section comes in and shows the band switching up the style, it’s cosmic jazz but not like you might expect, and Steve Spacek’s vocal harmonies are an otherworldly and elegant addition. The third track continues with the mix to an interlude, where the piano (Oli Cadman) and drums (Matt Davies) seemingly play off each other with Spacek’s vocals haunting in the background.
My other favourite track is ‘Slinky’, this feels like an exploration of current trends around the South London jazz collective combined with the rising generations of indie R&B musicians in America. Yet, this track (and album) still sets itself apart in style and composition, with a heavier free form jazz sound that glides across electronic beats and synths. There’s something cinematic about the feel of this track and the album altogether. ‘Cheeky Chops’ is another great example of their production skills (Greg Surmacz and Adam Radley) too, with Sam Vicary’s bass bringing the funk on ‘Old’.
Paper Tiger are also cracking lyricists, on ‘What I Wish I’d Said’ they are refreshingly honest about less than favourable experiences of friends partners...“your girlfriends a nightmare, open your eyes right there, she’s a prick”. I’m particularly fond of the line “your boyfriends an arsehole and I can’t stay impartial”, it’s succinctly accurate for when you experience difficult people that your friends deserve better treatment from, whilst also being savagely funny. People say “honesty is the best policy”, maybe that’s because it’s more cathartic than lying? I’m all for that, so it feels good to hear people calling out bullshit in such an eloquent and animated way, swear words are the most emotive and fun forms of human language after all - I’m sure Raphael Attar might agree.
It's also worth pointing out how sexy the artworks for their album and single releases are, these beautiful designs are the work of Animisiewasz Startt who has produced some gorgeous digital cosmic spectrums (see below or on Instagram) for the whole project.
The album feels like it starts at the end of a hectic Saturday night out and quickly transitions into the start of a continuation into Sunday morning - arguably the more fun, intimate, and interesting part of any evening. It’s very easy to get lost in this album which is probably why it feels like this is a calmer journey into the late hours. This is in part due to Matt Davies’ drums and beats which have a gentle style but keep you pacing through, mixing trippy trance, break beats, and free from jazz in short spaces of time.
Paper Tiger are already established amongst the pioneering Brits who are fusing genres and integrating new technology, having previously collaborated with the likes of Shafiq Husayn, Chester Watson and Foreign Beggars - these are the artists expanding some of the music industries creative boundaries. The bands messages of engagement with friends, support for family, and honesty with all are welcome discussion points; this is because Paper Tiger place themselves in our strangely advanced and increasingly turbulent world, yet they embrace the future with a foundation of what is truly important. These features makes the band stand out on Rogue Planet, so it will be interesting to see how our present issues might shape the future of their music.
© Paper Tiger (Artwork by Animisiewasz Startt)