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Postyr

Paper Tiger (2015)

5.0

December 28, 2015

Tuning / Blend 5.0
Energy / Intensity 5.0
Innovation / Creativity 5.0
Soloists 5.0
Sound / Production 5.0
Repeat Listenability 4.7
Tracks
1 We Don't Wanna Breathe 5.0
2 Up For Air 5.0
3 Paper Tiger 5.0
4 Interlude 4.7
5 Travel the World 4.7
6 Dance With Me Now 5.0
7 Strive to Fly (Little Wing) 5.0
8 Home 5.0
9 Through the Rain 5.0
10 Talk 5.0
11 Constance 4.7

Recorded 2014 – 2015
Total time: 38:00, 11 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 We Don't Wanna Breathe 5
2 Up For Air 5
3 Paper Tiger 5
4 Interlude 5
5 Travel the World 5
6 Dance With Me Now 5
7 Strive to Fly (Little Wing) 5
8 Home 5
9 Through the Rain 5
10 Talk 5
11 Constance 5

Bright, buoyant original music from Postyr fills Paper Tiger. This Danish group is out to make new music in new ways, no holds barred. The group includes its laptop as one of its key components — which is more shocking in its explicitness than its effects, given the current standards in the college recording scene.

My favorite song, the title track that runs third in the lineup, is coincidentally the least processed of any of them, showing that this is not just an electronic album with a vocal tint. The Postyr gang can sing naturally and accessibly, and even better, they were able to write with songwriting staying power. The writing elevates this song to more than the sum of its well-sung parts. The percussion-free simplicity of the arrangement sets up its countertenor and soprano soloists to great effect, and the occasional overdubbed block chords are more accent than anchor. Also did I mention it's a lovely song?

Generally speaking, the mellow tunes catch my fancy more than the upbeat tunes. I fell for Strive to Fly (Little Wing) — not much connection to Hendrix — as well as the lovely Home, with its echoes of Imogen Heap or Ingrid Michelson. In contrast, the album opening We Don't Wanna Breathe is too busy to make much of an impression, and Dance With Me Now just sounds like it is waiting for its first fifty trance best remixes, none of which would be up my alley but which would probably be great if you like that sort of thing. The only track that jumps out as having an artificial sound is Travel the World with its synthesizer arpeggios. But from a distance, you could mistake it for outre autotune rather than an extra toolkit.

Another great thing: these tunes don't all sound the same! The group has a uniform sound, but you can tell one tune from another. The beats and the song structure vary from track to track. Too much original a cappella starts from a homogeneity, with lyrics and soloist being the main differences from song to song rather than any shift in texture, tempo or musicality. Postyr isn't afraid to write short songs, longer songs, or songs without words.

I would recommend this album without hesitation to any fan of vocal, pop, or ambient music. There's a lot to hang on to, and any disc with this much original vision is a welcome addition to our scene.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 We Don't Wanna Breathe 5
2 Up For Air 5
3 Paper Tiger 5
4 Interlude 4
5 Travel the World 4
6 Dance With Me Now 5
7 Strive to Fly (Little Wing) 5
8 Home 5
9 Through the Rain 5
10 Talk 5
11 Constance 4

Postyr describes itself as "a vocal electronic group", but that's not always the case on the Danish group's newest album Paper Tiger. Some of these songs certainly feature computer-generated beats alongside a human beatboxer — We Don't Wanna Breathe, Up For Air, and Dance With Me Now in particular have an unusual beat beneath the vocals that makes those tracks especially intense and gives Postyr a unique voice in the contemporary a cappella scene.

The electronic songs are the highlight of Paper Tiger and might be the most polarizing. Postyr may alienate a cappella purists with its use of synthesized beats, but this aesthetic choice adds Postyr's name to a short list of a cappella groups who are breaking the barriers of purely vocal music. Talk has such a sultry intensity, which the electronics certainly support, while album-opening We Don't Wanna Breathe leaves a lasting impression for how a group can use electronics without detracting from the vocals.

The non-electronic songs are also lovely but almost sound like they belong on a different album. Paper Tiger floats and shimmers like a watercolor; Home sounds like a daydream; and Constance closes the album with a hushed whisper.

I wish Postyr had split its songs into two EPs or grouped them on this album with the electronic songs in one section and the non-electronic songs following later. Bouncing back and forth between Postyr's two worlds makes for a slightly disjointed listen. That's a problem easily solved in today's digital era, where listeners can rearrange songs in their own order, but as presented, Paper Tiger doesn't flow perfectly from top to bottom. That's a small quibble, though, as every song here is beautifully-sung and stunningly-executed, showing how Postyr is on the cutting edge of a cappella innovation.

As an aside: there are five singers and five photos in Paper Tiger's liner notes, but the group's web site now presents it as a quartet.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 We Don't Wanna Breathe 5
2 Up For Air 5
3 Paper Tiger 5
4 Interlude 5
5 Travel the World 5
6 Dance With Me Now 5
7 Strive to Fly (Little Wing) 5
8 Home 5
9 Through the Rain 5
10 Talk 5
11 Constance 5

Technology is a major factor in contemporary a cappella recording, and one that grows with each passing year. Groups use it to create effects and to mask weaknesses or simulate perfection. Postyr adeptly and unabashedly uses technology to create a fresh, new, unique sound that started with human voices that are fused together with an electronic element. The result is somewhat avant-garde and ethereal, the likes of which are unsimilar to anything that's come before. Simply put, Postyr is revolutionizing electronic a cappella and creating something beautiful while doing it.

The unique sound on this album is one of its greatest strengths: everything from beatbox effects to reverb create a distinct sound that sets Postyr apart. The various choices in timbre, tone quality, balance, panning, and filters are very clear and intentional, providing more of an augmentation for the tracks rather than a mask or facade. Everyone responsible for producing this album from a studio perspective deserves the highest of praise.

From top to bottom, Paper Tiger's eleven original tracks are all truly excellent. Up For Air contains a few solo dissonances that grab the listener while providing a powerful, driving percussive line. The title track, Paper Tiger, is a ballad that features tone clusters all over that add to the expressive nature of the lyrics. Even the wordless Interlude feels like you're taken on some exotic, mystical journey with its use of nontraditional chord progression. Similarly, the instrumental interlude in Dance With Me Now is stunning. The background harmonies in Talk and Constance are moving and close the album well.

There are a few songs, such as Strive to Fly (Little Wing) and Home, that would get a "6" or "7" if at all possible on RARB's scale. Postyr explores heavier bass harmonies and mixes up registers to achieve a background foundation. Meanwhile, incredibly poignant original lyrics sung soundly by soloists help complete the incredible aural experience in the middle of an already impressive album.

Not only is all of the music contained on Paper Tiger excellent and well-conceived, it's all original. The solos are not terribly flashy, but they don't have to be in order to be effective, and they are carried out clearly. The various innovations in both the composing and recording processes are, if nothing else, inspiring. Whether you are a casual listener or a music professional, you will find many things to like and appreciate about Postyr's latest release. You could not pick up this album soon enough.

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Ordering Information

The album is currently available in Denmark and will be available digitally worldwide in early 2016. Until then, physical copies of the album can be ordered from www.postyrproject.com.

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