Jerry Paper is a complicated laundry list of things: an incarnate spirit, a myth, a blurred line between artist and creation, an attentive love of Roland synthesizers, a form of therapy. The first time I heard his Fuzzy Logic track, its synth wobble and chiptuned vocal layers occurred to me as an unassuming revelation. Imagine a soft rock pop tune, let’s just say The Turtles’ Happy Together, as it might appear featured in the background of Geocities page, the acoustic strum contorted into a casiotone MIDI-transposition. Then take the maudlin, inexplicably upsetting synthetic timbre of said transposition, and replace it with a few layers of vivid, mind-transfiguring analog synth. Oh, and instead of The Turtles’ syrupy lyricism, envision the narratives centering on an entity named Jerry Paper as he veers through a set of alternate dimensions, his utterances morphing from cartoonishly sad to insightfully level-headed. You get it? Just keep basting that noggin in those sine wave oscillations and eventually it’ll come full tilt.
Jerry’s been hard at work over the last six months sculpting an extensive musical reality for himself through two respectively great tape releases on Digitalis and Orange Milk Records. You see, Jerry Paper is explained by his host person, Brooklynite Lucas Nathan, as a phenomenon of musical possession vis-à-vis Homer’s invocation of the Muse of Poetry or Linda Blair’s involvement with demons (to be fair it seems like a healthier form of spiritual embodiment than the latter). Anyways, this alter ego recently released his first full LP of woozy, chiptune-inflected, soft-rock electronica, which is out now on Patient Sounds. While Jerry’s mythology, an Andy Kauffman-esque exploration of the indistinct hinge where the artist and his character meet, serves as an entrance point to the music, it also bleeds in one’s experience of the songs. In terms of providing a musical reference point, I’d mention a guy like Gary Wilson, not to assert him as an aesthetic predecessor (although incidentally they both get pigeonholed as experimental lounge), but more so as an artist with a similarly wacked out individualist ethos. Both artists present a multi-dimensional character through their songs that stands in relief to their compositions.
Though Jerry Paper’s presence creates an overall experience that’s more personal and more dialectical than listening to other arists like Yellow Magic Orchestra that fall in the lineage of analog synth innovation, his musical language contains a comparable amount of meticulously programmed synth tones and textures. Jerry’s sonic landscape is heavily phased and constantly undulating in gooey psychedelic patterns. Deadpan dialogue drifts through the segues and bridges of songs, giving the listener the impression of tuning into a cosmic radio dial (the metaphysical computer babble of Want To Be The Waves; the identity crisis public service announcement in I’m Jerry, Right?). As an album, the tracks are subtly varied but tightly cohesive. Nathan seems to have moved beyond the more free-form organization of his (also excellent) previous Zonotope project’s tape, MAINFRAME’S Tetralogy. The songs each explore a new corner of their strict pop structure and instrumental confines. I’m Jerry, Right? presents his supernatural possession theme through disassociative dilemmas common to all of us cognitive beings. In Want To Be The Waves, Jerry’s voice shifts to a humanoid pitch and timbre as he attempts to transcend the boundary between himself and his digital gadgets. The abundant charm of the record stems from a combination of Nathan’s masterful, single-minded approach to synth texture with his ability to depict life’s petty failures in a manner that hopes to transcend them.
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