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Paper Tiger – Laptop Suntan Album Review

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A one-time bedroom project grown increasingly too large for such confined spaces, Leeds-based Wolverhampton natives Paper Tiger have been playing around with elements of break beat, dubstep and electronica for a while now, gaining a reputation for musical eclecticism as well as brilliantly pulled off live shows. Now with their release of their debut LP they cement that respect with 14 tracks of perfectly executed hip hop and electronica.

paper tiger laptop suntanThere’s an immediately clear geeky real love for the electronics, reflected both in the album title and the tracks themselves, forever playing around liberally with the sounds and textures. Drum beats range from the organic to the glitchy, the synth from the most perfectly replicated to the most obviously synthetic. They really do take the best elements of all the electronic music that’s making waves right now and make something else out of it. Bleeps and bloops mix with xylophone notes, gut busting bass and casio stabs. You can hear bits of Flying Lotus and his Low End Theory associates in the rhythm of the scattershot beats and occasionally trippy warbling synth sounds as found on ‘Gundam Bling’; but then again they have a clarity to their sound more akin to Bonobo, an influence more apparent in the more nocturnal tracks in the latter stages of the album such as ‘Expensive Samurai’ and ‘Drift’. Every instrument has breathing space even when you’d expect them all to be vying for it. The layering of the diverse elements is exceptional. The introduction of more brass and string sounds as the album progresses is most welcome. The music is so good they could be forgiven for releasing an entirely instrumental version of the album as well.

And as for the tracks that feature lyrics, the words themselves range from the abstract to the concrete and commonground and then nosedive into the absurd and banal, sometimes in the space of a line. There’s a constant playfulness from chief wordsmith Raph Attar, both in delivery and subject matter. His vocal style roams from the lethargic and lolloping to the rapid and excited. He’s as happy rapping about the coolness of his latest beau on ‘The Sting’ (“Fresher than a copy of The Beano / Flier than two copies of The Dandy”) as he is about important things like what you have to do to ‘Make It Through’ whatever it is you have to to get on by or mocking battle rappers, along with a lot of primetime TV comedy “talent”, on ‘David Starkey’; there’s always a story and it never takes itself seriously enough to come across as mere posturing. The rhymes and references to odd things are never just due to writing himself into a rhymic corner either, but because he wanted to bring them up in the first place. It’s just too damn entertaining to care that he rhymed Simon Schama with Dalia Lama, while simultaneously attributing a playboy persona to the latter.

Paper Tiger are to hip hop what Buck 65 is to rap, something wicked and weird and wonderful not quite like anything else out there. All the potential for the typical posturing is either avoided or done so sarcastically that you can’t help but love it. It’s hip hop music that can charm people who don’t like hip hop. Becoming increasingly renowned for their live shows, they’ve now delivered with an album to do that reputation justice. Once it finishes, you’ll immediately reach for repeat.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/13249381″ width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /] Laptop Suntan is out now on Wah Wah 45s Records and available on Bandcamp, both physically and digitally, or via iTunes. Currently on tour from 1st-8th of November, they’re stopping off in Birmingham, Brighton, London and Manchester.