Paper Void has been one of my personal favorite bands for 2 years now. I found them on the jazz subreddit when one of the band members posted their horn arrangement they had done on the subreddit. I loved the sound of the song and decided to listen to INCREMENTS in its entirety. It was truly a cathartic, transcendental experience hearing it for the first time. The lights were off, it was 1 am, and everything was still as the music washed over me. Fast forward two years later, and the band released an album that not only progressed their sound, but also fought off the sophomore slump that artists are inclined to fall in to. Transition is just that, a shift into a new sound.
The ten-piece start the album off with a short instrumental piece, “Sunrise”, that builds up to a horn melody backed up groovy hip-hop style eat. Keyboardists Betai Koffi and Evan Gitterman do a fantastic job with layering the keys and really moving the piece along musically with the underlying melodies; simply beautiful. The second track “With You”, has that familiar Paper Void sound to it as it starts off. Singer/Rapper Alberto Guzmán branches out and sings both on this song and the album a lot more than he did on INCREMENTS. His voice has a very nice texture to it and it fits the production like a glass of smooth whiskey.
What “With You” does is give you a glimpse into just how much Paper Void can do. From funky guitar progressions, to lush horn lines that build on themselves, call and response vocals from Alberto, Ella Cooley, Hannah Martinson, as well as syncopated rhythms that leave you dancing and speechless, the track encapsulates the beauty of the group and the album.
As the third track “Floating”” hits, you begin to hear a component in this ‘transition’, acoustic guitar. It’s very intimate as the song grows with keys and angelic vocal harmonies until the band kicks in, a minute into ever-changing song. What this song showed was the growth in songwriting. Just three tracks in, you can hear that the group is incredibly aware of their sound and how to improve it. The bass, played by Evan Gitterman, is a little lower in the mix towards the second half of the song, but he’s got some quality riffs and melodies in there that support the song perfectly. “On” has a classic vibe that’d be found on a Stevie Wonder album during his prime. It’s criminally short, but it segues perfectly into the following track “Waves”. Despite the track’s name, it grabbed a clap from the mid 2000’s and affixed it into a neo soul/ jazzy context. Definitely a bold move, but one that I think they succeeded with after listening to the album enough times. Guitarists Gavin Leeper and Chris Tang have some great lines in here as well.
While I’d have to say that “With You” is probably my favorite track off the whole album, “9.7.18” is a close second. The way the piano transitions from the filtered section to not is just so commanding and the drums, courtesy of Alex Favaro, sound big. The song undergoes so many changes and transitions and really allows all the instrumentalists to shine. From a fuzzed out guitar line, to heavily ghosted snare hits that add a sense of anxiety, the 9.7.18 is another fine example of what makes this band so interesting. The song doesn’t hold onto any single idea for longer than 30 or 45 seconds, yet everything fits perfectly.
“When My Side Has Won” has quite possibly one of my favorite lyrics of the year with “I was one of the masses on my cellphone / Taking pictures of myself alone / Trapped inside the noise of my cellphone / I’ll come back when my side has won”. It’s a very reflective lyrics that is extremely applicable to people today and the advent of social media. The second last song,
“Away”, is probably one of the more straightforward songs on the project in terms of development. The way Alberto’s voice distorts more and more as the song progresses is magical. There simply is no other way to put it. His emotions get ingrained with each word “Will Time Take This” and explosive song that winds down to a gorgeous piano run to close 35 minute trip into an alternate, psychedelic and funky world.
After my first listen, I was admittedly a little disappointed in the fact that it wasn’t INCREMENTS II. I loved their jazzier vibe and their more straightforward production. As I listened to Transition more and more, I realized I love this album more because it veered from that. If I wanted INCREMENTS II, I could go to the hundreds of bands doing that sound, but no one is doing the sound from Transition quite like Paper Void. Certain takes from this album could have came from the golden era of jazz fusion in the 70’s, while others are something Hendrix would have done had he stuck around a bit longer. Transition is simply just that, a colorful re imagining of the band’s sound. I simply cannot wait for their next project and I want to take this time to thank the band for their beautiful music. Transition was recently added to all the popular streaming platforms, so check it out, but definitely buy it off Bandcamp and support them by buying a record!
Listen to it here!: