Jerry Paper is the internet experience brought to life by mastermind Lucas W. Nathan, who leans into charming absurdity under a genre he describes on his Bandcamp page as "11th dimension pop." Blending MIDI sounds with catchy keyboard hooks, the L.A.-based songwriter has been creating heartwarming, outlandish pop for years, and has garnered an abounding online fan base in the process.
Nathan dives into the further reaches of the realm of eccentricity with his latest record Toon Time Raw! and doesn't look back. Deviating from his more electronically centered pop with the help of BadBadNotGood, he grounds us in a kaleidoscopic, jazzy dissonance as he layers dozy keyboard over warm saxophone and roots songs in bossa nova rhythm (most notably in "Elastic Last Act"). Although the record seems to paint the primary colors of a simple, whimsical comic book, Nathan lyrically delves into heavier, complex existential issues. Toon Time Raw! is a strange and beautiful anomaly that requires an attentive ear and more than just one listen.
The album comes out June 17th on Bayonet Records and can be preordered via Bandcamp.
Jerry Paper is also doing a string of live dates found below.
This is an article from AdHoc Issue 3. Purchase this issue or a subscription.
Drone music used to be outsider music: a practice whereby truly monotonous sounds were either layered or left alone to resonate at their own pace, with little regard for the listener’s patience. Studied by academic types, utilized as an aid for meditation, and ultimately relegated to the background of subgenre after subgenre (i.e. minimalism, early computer music, new age), drone was impervious to folks who liked to limit their musical intake to whatever was peddled through mainstream channels like television and the radio. Despite their unobtrusive, often inward-focused and insular music, some drone producers have nonetheless managed to break their way in the larger music narrative in the past couple of decades. While modern ambient legends like Brian Eno, Harold Budd, and even William Basinski may not be on commercial radio or tapped for music in advertisements (excepting curious anomalies like Eno’s landmark Windows 95 start-up jingle), they continue to inspire fans and musicians alike.
Eno has been the most prominent producer in this genre for four decades, pioneering ambient music as well as producing albums for Devo, Slowdive, Coldplay, and U2. Trent Reznor operates on a similar scale, producing high-profile, ambient-tinged soundtrack work with Atticus Ross when not he’s not working with Nine Inch Nails or How to destroy angels_. He gains recognition across mediums (albums and film) and audiences (from die-hard Reznor followers to lay moviegoers). Drop down a status tier, and you have medium-level producers like Ben Frost and Christian Fennesz, who are relatively visible underground figures championed by publications like Pitchfork and scene “heads” alike.
This is an excerpt of an article from AdHoc Issue 3. Purchase this issue or a subscription.
Let’s start with American Idol. Popular from 2002 through, well, maybe today still, the show rested on a simple proposition: sing a few wellknown songs in the right style, and you or any other American Nobody could become an American Idol. The promise of the show was that by adhering to and excelling at a certain vocal style, you could win over the gatekeepers to the industry–two behind-the-scene types and Paula Adbul–who would then let you pass to coveted pop star status. Of course, it was audience votes, not the judges themselves, who chose the victor, but between the limited pool of contestants and the strong influence of the judges’ reactions, the democratic process was rather limited.
Not that the audience really had a panoply of choices in the first place. The only singers presented were the ones who abided by American Idol’s implicit criteria for good vocal performance: singing in tune, belting at key moments, hitting a bunch of different notes during one syllable (referred to as “melisma”), pulling soccer mom heart strings. Winners adhered to a specific code of expression while preserving some personal je ne sais quoi. The show offered a series of pop products with slightly different styles–Kelly Clarkson as the Southern Belle, Jennifer Hudson as the latter-day Diana Ross–not dissimilar to visiting Red Robin and encountering a multitude of differently titled burgers that are all the same beef patty and bun with different toppings.
American Idol was something like the music industry’s celebration of its homogenized mainstream. Chances are that you–the person who is sitting here, reading this–were never interested in that show, or the sausage-making aspects of the pop culture machine. You may have rolled your eyes every time your younger sister insisted the family turn it on after dinner. You did not vote via text message for the contestant that sang the best Beatles cover. A look back at 2014, then, should make you feel good.
Lucas Nathan is the host body for Jerry Paper-- a musical entity that appears whenever Lucas performs or records. As Jerry Paper, Lucas crafts crooning, lounge-synth pop. His newest record, Feels Emotions, is his first to be released on vinyl and is due out Feburary 11 via Patient Sounds. The record's liner notes offer some details on complex comsology of Jerry Paper. A defector of the Temple of Pure Information and Mainframe Devotion, an alternative spiritual community, Jerry Paper sought to help bring Trance Channels-- a sort of musico-mystical ritual-- to the masses. We spoke to Lucas about his relationship with Jerry Paper, his love of limitations, and the problems of articulating mystical experience.
Ad Hoc: What’s your working relationship with Jerry Paper like?
Lucas Nathan: I live my normal human life. I do shit and work at jobs and everything. Basically when I start a project I’m kind of obsessive and I feel like it’s kind of an exorcism. I feel like I need to finish and need to let Jerry out. I do feel that there is a separation between normal life Lucas and Jerry, the musical entity. I do feel a possession aspect to working. Often times I’ll be sucked in and kind of sit there doing some repetitive task-- like playing the same line over and over again until it’s right-- and wake up six hours later and be like “Oh shit, I need to eat some food.” Or “Oh fuck, I was supposed to do something today and all I did was sit here doing this."
Ad Hoc: Could you talk about what Trance Channels are?
LN: The record will actually come with an insert with an explanation from Dr. Abie Sea on Trance Channels, but I can give you an overview. Basically, the idea is that, Diane and her band, through training have figured out a way to basically tap into infinite loops. This is a skill that obviously most people don’t have. It’s, like most musical actions, kind of inexplicable. The long and short of it is that it means tapping into frequencies normal people can’t access. Basically the point of the Wellness Group is to bring that to normal people and to take outside its normal context. Obviously my music doesn’t sound like that-- that’s not its theme. But it’s definitely drawing from those experiences-- that kind of infinity that is virtually inaccessible, but we can try.
The last offering from Jerry Paper-- the International Man of Misery himself, known in his host body as Lucas Nathan-- was a release on Orange Milk which was chock-full of psychedelic sad boy jams. “No Mutant Jive” is a track from Nathan’s upcoming cassette, Fuzzy Logic, in which he exudes a nonchalance in his delivery as a true nihilistic lounge lizard, except now he doesn’t seem so blissfully hopeless. “Don’t want no sociopaths running the civilizations/Just want the people to be able to have a say,” he croons over the hip and hop of the hypnolounge rhythm. “No Mutant Jive” is melodically deadpan in tone, but critical in his call for a restructuring of the world, earning its charm from the track’s slow-danceability.
Fuzzy Logic is out now Digitalis Recordings.