Papur Wal. Image : Sam Stevens
Papur Wal : Amser Mynd AdraLibertino : 8th October 2021
Papur Wal can switch from blissed-out beatnik power pop to a darker, heavier momentum in a moment.
Big Star, Pavement, Teenage Fanclub, Crosby, Stills and Nash have been cited as the band's musical reference points, but this debut album could equally be seen as drawing much of its energy from the sonic ley line that runs from Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd to the effervescent eighties spirit of The La's.
All the band’s members are originally from North Wales, but it was in Cardiff in 2017 that they formed Papur Wal. Since then Ianto (vocals & guitar), Gwion (vocals & bass) and Guto (vocals / drums) have released a clutch of animated, well received singles and an EP.
Apprenticeship served, Amser Mynd Adra suddenly sets them at the leading edge of an exhilarating, unstoppable rush of Welsh language cultural expression that has intensified over the last five years despite antagonistic social and economic pressures.
Amser Mynd Adra is a mid-20s-coming-of-age album - inevitably exploring themes of change, including, as Ianto has explained,
“moving out from living with friends into the rest of your life, the fear of missing out, the everyday existential crisis, the guilt that comes with not knowing what to do next, separation anxiety and a new way of living your life that makes it all the more difficult to go back to do what you used to do.”
Taking these ideas as read, long-time producer Kris Jenkins (Super Furry Animals, Cate Le Bon, H Hawkline) has captured an airbrush free, informal image of the band, enabling them to weave a thousand threads of influence into something unique.
Amser Mynd Adra takes three plays to reveal itself - and then the urge to listen again becomes a self-feeding addiction.
The album opens strongly.
The first three songs run from the playful, upbeat Style Council pop of Rhwng Dau Feddwl through the slink and slide of Arthur to the rolling wave of power chords that drive Meddwl am Hi.
There is no filler as the remaining seven tracks play out.
Andrea a Fi is a beautifully sketched mood, the lyrics referring to Ianto losing his belongings on holiday, and discovering a poem written in Italian in his notebook when he found them again the next day. The poem is quoted, and Ianto’s guitar dances ecstatically around its meaning.
Haul Chwefror (February Sun) is a quick road trip of hope
through late winter fields; Brychni Haul is innocent,
sun-filled and Beatles inspired, Penblwydd Hapus a slow
paced, dreamy joy.
Llyn Llawenydd is about the importance of having a place of escape to go to with people that matter; Nôl ac yn Ôl is an account of stress that expresses eighteen months of shared anxiety. Language is no barrier, both songs fully articulate the lyric’s point musically before you can reach for a translation.
The album closes in English (the only point apart from Arthur when the lyrics stray from Welsh or, briefly in Andrea a Fi, Italian) with the brilliance of Anifeiliaid Anwes, a lead out track with exquisite rhythm and tempo shifts.
Another Libertino band has come of age, and it is a spectacular sight.
This a flawless debut. Melody, melancholy and elemental pop rapture; Amser Mynd Adra is a treasure trove of songs to keep close in bleak times.