Paper Armies, the name given to the musical creations of Jason Calhoun, is something of an oddity in the “one man band” world. While a great number of said bands release records rather often (Cloudkicker released three albums in less than a year, Good Weather For An Airstrike has released three albums this year, etc.), Calhoun has released just 3 recordings since the 2009 inception of Paper Armies – 2010’s self-titled debut, a split with Desert of Hiatus in 2011, and this newest EP just released earlier this month, “Together”.
If you’re already familiar with Paper Armies, you have a good idea of what to expect here. For the uninitiated, however, Calhoun’s music is a little more difficult to neatly label than you would expect. On first listen, you could very easily classify it as simply ambient, but there are layers here, some more subtle than others. Touches of post-rock, shoegaze, minimalist classical, and ambient all combine to make a beautiful release, one that, in Calhoun’s own words, should be listened to “at a high volume in a quiet space”. The opening track, “Together”, slowly builds up in such a way that you hardly notice the fuzz getting louder and louder, swelling like a wave until it quietly fades out. “25,000,000 years” is perhaps the biggest example on the EP of the shoegaze influence, not unlike something that could be crafted by Kevin Shields. The track develops into a haze, leaving you feeling sort of like you’re sitting and watching a fog roll in. The shortest song present, “Removal”, struck me immediately as having a drowned out, underwater feel to it. That’s not to say that the music is lost anywhere, it just truly creates a feeling of being underwater. You know how voices sound very fuzzed out and wobbly when you’re underwater in a pool? Like that. The final track on the EP is the appropriately named, “You Can Feel Unwanted Anywhere”. Starting out with an almost remorseful sounding guitar tone, the track leads into a beautiful, yet lonely feeling, cloud of fuzz and reverb. It’s a perfect way to end the recording, and really wraps up the overall feel quite nicely.
What Calhoun has done here with his latest Paper Armies release is create music that can easily set varying moods, depending on the listener. It can feel lonely for some, comforting for others. Like a dream, or like laying in a field gazing at the night sky. Given the natural beauty of his hometown of Ithaca, NY, I’m not surprised at all that this EP evokes a very “snowy forest” feeling, and does so quite well.
You can name your own price both this EP and the full length ($4 for the split) over on bandcamp – http://paperarmies.bandcamp.com/