Track by Track: Paper Birch take us through their new LP ‘MORNINGHAIRWATER’

As regular readers of these pages will know, if there’s one band about whom I am entirely incapable of being objective and impartial it’s 90’s lo-fi sci-fi Glaswegian indie band Urusei Yatsura.  For me they are that band – the one that caught me at an impressionable age and tipped me over the edge from a standard teenage music fan to an obsessive who’s spent the last 19 years of their life chronicling the independent music scene.  There’s a very real likelihood that without them, Joyzine would never have existed.

As such, whenever a new Yatsura-related project springs up it is a source of both huge excitement and massive anxiety.  Thankfully the band’s former members have yet to let us down and Paper Birch, a new collaboration between UY’s Fergus Lawrie and Dee Sada of experimental London trio NEUMES, allows me to breathe another huge sigh of relief.  Written and recorded entirely during the COVID-19 lockdown, and set for release via Cafe OTO‘s new digital label Takuroko later this week, it’s a wonderful collection of tracks – the two members’ musical pasts glinting through the cracks from time to time but mostly striding off in  search of new sounds, mixing in disparate elements from classic 60s pop to glitchy electronica to transportative effect.

We asked Dee to walk us through the album track by track.

Summer Daze
This is one of the first songs we wrote together. It’s about feeling isolated and disillusioned with summer and with all the nostalgia, hope and excitement it’s meant to bring. The video was directed by filmmaker Grant McPhee. He directed the Glasgow 80s indie scene documentary, Teenage Superstars and post-punk documentary Big Gold Dream so it was incredible to have someone so talented conjure up the video. He was inspired by childhood fairytales, 1970s books on the supernatural and 1960s Victoriana. The film was shot entirely on 16mm and hand-developed by Grant. For him, the song gave him a very hallucinatory feel and we feel the video captures the song just beautifully.

Love For The Things Yr Not
One of Fergus’ beautiful indie pop songs. I’ve always loved male and female vocals from 50s/60s pop to Bollywood songs to Shane McGowan and Sinead O’ Connor’s ‘Haunted’ so it was amazing that Fergus was up for both of us singing the majority of songs on this album.

Elegy (As We Mourn)
Fergus sent me the electronic soundscape and I got a real sense of darkness from it. The lyrics were written in the middle of lockdown and represent the overwhelming anxiety towards the pandemic and the reality of people dying and feeling so helpless and scared by it all.

I Don’t Know You
Another belter from Fergus. Barbara Ann is a synonym for every person you’ve met where there is a strong connection but you’re still confused on where you stand and you’re not able to fully know or understand them perhaps because they always hold a piece of themselves back. My favourite parts of this song are the epic guitar solos. They’re so Urusei in nature and that’s amazing.

A beautiful electronic soundscape from Fergus. ‘Hide’ is about the horrific rise in cases of domestic abuse during lockdown. I can’t imagine what an extra layer of awfulness that adds to trying to survive this. It breaks my heart.

Cemetery Moon
I spent a lot of time during lockdown at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park which inspired this song. It became a place of solace for me and an opportunity to connect with nature and stillness. ‘Cemetery Moon’ is about the beginning and end of a relationship and how you can experience layers of feelings towards one particular place at different times in your life.

PaperBirch (Large)

Blue Heartbreak
‘Blue Heartbreak’ is written by Fergus and is a modern take on heartbreak with a nod to pop from yesteryear. We have an epic 90s sounding guitar solo from Fergus and one of my favourite parts of the song is the ending with the 70s-esque disco drums and my homage to the ‘I Will Follow Him’ bassline. This is all the elements of pop from over the ages brought together in our style.

Curse Us
This song is a reflection on the end of a relationship. It’s about the difficulty of coming to terms with accepting a new sort of reality. You feel shattered and begin coming to the realisation it is the end but then something like finding a thread of someone’s hair will bring every emotion back. You want to move on but still feel rooted in one place – a place that once felt safe forever but no longer exists.  Musically, this is a sparse track – repetitive beats and electronic glitches with a slight guitar and bass backing. It sounds like a battle with the voices in your head.

‘Fallen’ was one of the first songs we wrote together. I wrote the lyrics as a dark nursery rhyme for adults. We wanted it to sound dreamy on initial listen but deeper and darker the more you listened to it. The overall message of this album is accepting our fragility but remaining hopeful.

So there we have it, we have released MORNINGHAIRWATER into the world and we hope it gives some people, some solace, somewhere.

MORNINGHAIRWATER is released on 3rd August via TAKUROKU Records.

Introduction by Paul Maps

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