Boomkat Product Review:
Late 2016’s ‘Highway Songs’ brought Papa M back to us, after many years of silence and several harrowing dances with death for his Id-ego/host body, David Pajo. Now, two years on down the road, we’re all here again to witness ‘A Broke Moon Rises’.
"‘Highway Songs’ was a necessarily cathartic experience in all phases. Afterwards, with no tour dates forthcoming (partially due to lousy clubs and their lack of wheelchair-accessible stage doors), it felt good just to play for fun again, like being in the practice space instead of the psych ward - a much healthier change of pace than some might guess. David blew it out; all the different styles he’s played in over the years, from folk-blues to metal, electronic, pop, Bollywood... all of it. When the spasms subsided, however, a back-to-roots sediment remained in the bottom of the bowl, which he read as a motive for a new Papa M album done with all acoustic instruments.
That’s how there’s nothing electric about ‘A Broke Moon Rises’. Even the drums are acoustic. The five songs of ‘A Broke Moon Rises’ find David focusing his technique in unknown directions, to find out what he can do with them. When that happens, he finds himself on the very spot where Papa M music becomes alive. As the quietly funereal march of the opening track resonates with a spare drum beat, we are completely transfixed into the open spaces around the guitars. David’s been engineering and mixing his records for years, so the sensation of his sound-thoughts doesn’t entirely surprise us, even in their latest, acoustic anointment. Layers of guitars curl and unfurl, falling away from the centre with feathery softness. Slide figures cut through the progressions with a rusty glide. Arpeggiations flicker with light, leading into a change that’ll break on ones ear like a small revelation. Even the sound of Papa M playing in the room, leaning forward or untouching the strings, provides textural byplay in created space. ‘A Broke Moon Rises’ is meditative in the most active sense, with the unquiet mind leaping from place to place in a static, spartan theatre. All of which action makes hypnotic music, perfect for listening.
The album’s title is based upon his son’s observation of a half-moon one evening (when his son was 29) and it helped infuse the record with an essential feeling, which draws to a decidedly tasty conclusion with David taking on an Arvo Pärt piece. After years of fascination with the music, listening in passivity, he finally decided to do something about understanding it by playing it himself. If you’re wondering, that’s the key to ‘A Broke Moon Rises’."