Asheville, NC is known for a great many things — a handful of which can be found noted on CoS‘s coverage of the inaugural Moogfest 2010. As a hub for music and the arts, North Carolina’s dearest mountain city rests firmly in the palm of the late Robert Moog’s memory, an eclectic reverberation of electronics and DJs surpassing anything we could possibly dream up. Rising from the fires of these multiple craft facets are Isaac Gottfried (aka MINGLE) and Molly Kummerle (aka RubySlippers), who together form lounge/trip-hop duo Paper Tiger.
Paper Tiger’s own back-story is introduced by the following statement: “In the beginning, there was a jazz singer who met a DJ/producer. They shared a mutual love of Radiohead and collaborated on their own cover version of ‘Fake Plastic Trees’. […] Although both [Isaac & Molly] were working with other projects, they felt a spark in their new creation and began to write and record their own material.”
That is nothing to scoff at, in terms of an origin story, though I would not dare call Me Have Fun a harbinger of Brit-rock imitation — in fact, far from it. At the outset of openers “Happy Hour” and the album’s title single, you get snippets of a clearly straight-vinyl sample, a bubbly child trying to giggle his way through spit, and a transition from whimsy to moody as the haunting scope of “Me Have Fun” chimes in. Kummerle subtly brings her whispering vocals in, whilst Gottfried lays a very jazzy set of layers behind her — textbook, but skillful.
Segueing from “And So On”, an acoustic guitar kicks off “Don’t Panic Betty”, and you find the scheme of things playing itself out: songs and segues alternate from beginning to end, only dropping the ball abruptly every so often, in terms of smoothness on progression. Me Have Fun is a nearly instrumental piece by and large, with Kummerle serving as more of an additional instrument than a distinctive voice in the sea of sounds. There are elements of funk (“Hibiscus”, “Last Call”, “Window”), R&B (“Deep Sea”), Middle Eastern influence (“Paper Tiger”), and even the essence of Zero-7 (“Freezer”); these theme changes are minutiae to those who do not dabble in trip-hop regularly, but in instances where Kummerle comes to the forefront, she shines as daftly as Gottfried would fit in remixing a pop.
I would not consider anything lyrical here to be astounding, save a few lines on “Freezer”, but if you bought this album expecting trip-hop, the likelihood that lyrics were your main focus are slim to none, in retrospect.
To call this act the States’ answer to England’s own Portishead would be accurate and can contribute to discussion on the debut release of Me Have Fun in ways both good and bad. Will it transcend genres or make an everlasting shift known in the world of electronic music? Hardly, but there is no displeasure in listening, and definitely no harsh criticisms beyond a fine line betwixt derivation and inspiration. Kummerle’s and Gottfried’s individual projects and accolades lend credibility to anything either of them touch, and while Me Have Fun is substantially devoid of pop hooks or melancholy, Paper Tiger is a new phase for our two heroes, overall.
Pity the game’s already been saturated for some time. Here’s to hoping we’ll see King Britt make a mark alongside Paper Tiger in the near future?