Paper Relics‘ first album was released in the summer of 2011, half a year before we launched our site. While the duo of Harry and Stuart Towell may have been quiet for a while, Harry has stayed in the public eye through his work as Spheruleus and his various record labels, including Whitelabrecs. Many other milestones have occurred since then: both brothers have moved out, married and purchased homes of their own. The Road Home is a look back, musically and spiritually, a way to experience how far the brothers have traveled while gauging the good things that remain the same.
One of these things is the old clock shop, last heard on “Tinted in Time” (found in the link above) and revisited on “Timeframing,” which arrives deep in the album. There’s great comfort in returning to one’s home town and discovering that some of the old shoppes are still there. “Stay with me now,” sings Harry, leaving the subject unclear: memory, object or person? There are fewer field recordings here than on Over Exposure, but the sense of nostalgia is intact. This is a second tier nostalgia, having more to do with distance traveled than of tactile memory. The music is also different, with an ambient core but a post-rock surface. There’s even a touch of modern composition, as heard in the soft stringed finale of the opener. The guitar work is warm and inviting, like a reunion around a living room fire. The album shares with its predecessor a tinge of the Old West (despite the brothers’ upbringing in the English countryside) and an overall tone of calm.
The album’s best tracks benefit from contrast. In “Flood Lines,” two guitars sparkle atop a shimmering drone. On “Insulate,” the electronics seep in softly, and are joined in the final minute by another string setting. “Floorplan” is as percussive as horses’ hooves, sitting atop some lovely phrasing. This latter track pushes the album from the ambient zone, a metaphor for a new phase of life.
Thomas Wolfe once wrote, “you can’t go home again,” borrowing the phrase from a conversation with a friend. In one sense the saying is true, akin to Heraclitus’ “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” But in another it rings false. If the memories still glimmer, and the love still shines, it’s still home. After seven years, Harry and Stuart have found their way back to recording together. Over the past seven years, they may have taken different paths, but they still have the same roots, a fact they celebrate on this comforting release. (Richard Allen)