Papa M’s road towards happiness
Papa M, one of the many aliases of David Pajo, released A Broke Moon Rises on August 17, 2018. This is his second release after a 12-year-long hiatus from his Papa M projects. Pajo has received widespread critical acclaim not only for his work with the legendary math rock group Slint but also through his many solo efforts, Papa M most of all. Though Pajo is most known as a founding member and lead guitarist of Slint, he has carried his unique ear and talent no matter what project he takes on, such as the metal band Dead Child. Besides Slint and his solo work, Pajo has also contributed his guitar skills by playing and recording with bands like Stereolab, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Interpol.
The album starts off with “The Upright Path,” which has a gentle guitar melody that soothes and chills at the same time. There is something slightly unsettling about the slow ruminations that Pajo creates with lightly plucked strings. At the same time, he layers a brighter and faster melody on top of it, creating a mixed mood that is impossible not to lose oneself in. Combined with the barely present percussion, “The Upright Path” seems to highlight the moments of doubt and hope that appear and disappear as one continues to make his way down the path of life.
A Broke Moon Rises takes many subtle turns in mood that slowly blend into each other. Pajo shifts towards something more solemn with “Walt’s,” which has another simple guitar melody that alternates between higher notes and lower notes. Using slightly modulated squeals of guitar to push things out of their comfort zone, “Walt’s” slowly unfolds its raw emotions into a wonderful state of openness. The track that follows, “A Lighthouse Reverie” takes things in the opposite direction. It is extremely light with whimsical fingerstyle melodies, which overlap and play off of each other. These melodies dance into high tones and low ones full of joyous energy. Around three minutes into the song, it silences out with a ringing low note. A much slower guitar melody comes into play, peaceful and unhurried. With an interesting mix of percussion rhythmically laid in both the foreground and background, Pajo’s math rock roots start to shine through. Even at the very end of the song, Pajo manages to switch up the tone once again by adding resigned expletive, perhaps suggesting an interruption to the sunniness that came with “A Lighthouse Reverie.”
Before A Broke Moon Rises closed out with the meditative slow burner “Spiegel I’m Spiegel,” Pajo takes listeners on a surreal journey with the standout “Shimmer.” It starts off with a monotonous guitar repeatedly strumming, harmonizing with different key variations. Slowly, differentiated tones are added in, giving “Shimmer” a more textured feel. As it grew more and more complex, each of the newly added sounds fits onto the rest like a piece to a bigger puzzle. Even with so much going on, “Shimmer” never overwhelms; rather, it envelops its listeners in hazy guitar melodies that blend into one another. A jumpy high melody skips around and disappears in a matter of seconds while another sinks into itself much more heavily. The majority of the song is upbeat, even without any percussion. Once it slows down towards the end, it devolves into something a bit messier, as individual notes fall off the structured path they were once on before.
With so much detail placed into every song, every melody and every note, it is difficult to not imagine the symbolism Pajo may have placed within every track. Even though A Broke Moon Rises never has anything as overtly sinister as Pajo’s work with Slint, there are still brief moments of darkness that give the album a much more multifaceted appeal. Still, surrounding those quick glimpses of something ominous is an abundance of joyfulness that was beautifully executed by Pajo. A Broke Moon Rises, just as its title suggests, shows that recovery and healing from darker times isn’t just possible–they combine with the lows to create a much more meaningful experience.