Fly Pan AM Get the Classic Krautrock Vibe Right on 'C’est ça'

Photo courtesy of Constellation Records

Canadian experimental rock band, Fly Pan AM return after a 15-year absence, stressing the extremes of their sound on C'est ça.

C'est ça
Fly Pan AM


20 September 2019

The Montreal-based experimental rock group Fly Pan Am released four albums between 1999 and 2004, then announced an indefinite hiatus. After that, the members kept busy with various bands and projects. Then, as is the case with many bands, the hiatus ended with a one-off live performance. That was in 2018, and, not surprisingly, the band have now returned with a new studio album. C'est ça is a safe recording in that it will not alienate fans of their previous work but is not a complete rehash of that work, either. But the album may not be "safe" for one's ears or psyche.

Indeed, with all four of the band's original members still in the fold, C'est ça sounds as if it could have been recorded much less than 15 after its immediate predecessor, N'écoutez pas (2004), the Fly Pan Am album it most resembles. The robotically groovy Krautrock rhythms, bits of silence, static, and noise, and electronic squelches and squirts still provide the basic sound. What C'est ça does, though, is emphasize the extremes. Therefore, there are more stretches of floating, droning, shoegaze-like atmosphere and also more death metal and hardcore-inspired screaming and wailing—often within the same song.

This juxtaposition results in passages like that in "Each Ether", where plangent guitar strumming like one might hear on a Slowdive album is overlaid with harrowing, tortured shrieking. Likewise, "One Hit Wonder" spends three-and-a-half minutes working up a swell of gauzy, blanketing guitar effects, and then punctures it with rapid-fire beats and more shrieking, this time with what sounds like an analog computer going haywire in the background. A band like Deafheaven have navigated this juxtaposition in sound in an engaging way and almost natural-sounding in a "why didn't anyone think of that before" manner. But on C'est ça it sounds relatively random and unconvincing. Maybe that's partly because even these jarring yet relatively structured compositions are interspersed with all-instrumental noise collages which do little to establish a tone or atmosphere.

Fly Pan Am deserve credit for getting the classic Krautrock vibe right—the muffled drums, snappy tempos, and taut basslines recall the glory days of Can and Neu. That is also part of the problem, however. For all their experimentalism, Fly Pan Am are ultimately derivative in a way that doesn't bring much new to the palette. Malcolm Mooney-era Can invented and presented C'est ça's self-contradicting dynamics and unhinged vocalizing in much more engaging fashion—a half-century earlier. When they try going another route, as on the tribal "Discreet Channeling", Fly Pan Am end up aping a Cure B-side. Somewhere, Fly Pan Am fans are doubtless thrilled the band got back together and picking up right where they left off. Everyone else would be better off going straight to the source.





Dancing in the Street: Our 25 Favorite Motown Singles

Detroit's Motown Records will forever be important as both a hit factory and an African American-owned label that achieved massive mainstream success and influence. We select our 25 favorite singles from the "Sound of Young America".


The Durutti Column's 'Vini Reilly' Is the Post-Punk's Band's Definitive Statement

Mancunian guitarist/texturalist Vini Reilly parlayed the momentum from his famous Morrissey collaboration into an essential, definitive statement for the Durutti Column.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

What Will Come? COVID-19 and the Politics of Economic Depression

The financial crash of 2008-2010 reemphasized that traumatic economic shifts drive political change, so what might we imagine — or fear — will emerge from the COVID-19 depression?


Datura4 Take Us Down the "West Coast Highway Cosmic" (premiere)

Australia's Datura4 deliver a highway anthem for a new generation with "West Coast Highway Cosmic". Take a trip without leaving the couch.


Teddy Thompson Sings About Love on 'Heartbreaker Please'

Teddy Thompson's Heartbreaker Please raises one's spirits by accepting the end as a new beginning. He's re-joining the world and out looking for love.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Little Protests Everywhere

Wherever you are, let's invite our neighbors not to look away from police violence against African Americans and others. Let's encourage them not to forget about George Floyd and so many before him.


Carey Mercer's New Band Soft Plastics Score Big with Debut '5 Dreams'

Two years after Frog Eyes dissolved, Carey Mercer is back with a new band, Soft Plastics. 5 Dreams and Mercer's surreal sense of incongruity should be welcomed with open arms and open ears.


Sondre Lerche Rewards 'Patience' with Clever and Sophisticated Indie Pop

Patience joins its predecessors, Please and Pleasure, to form a loose trilogy that stands as the finest work of Sondre Lerche's career.


Ruben Fleischer's 'Venom' Has No Bite

Ruben Fleischer's toothless antihero film, Venom is like a blockbuster from 15 years earlier: one-dimensional, loose plot, inconsistent tone, and packaged in the least-offensive, most mass appeal way possible. Sigh.


Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.


Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.


Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.