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.





Learning to Take a Picture: An Interview With Inara George

Inara George is unafraid to explore life's more difficult and tender moments. Discussion of her latest music, The Youth of Angst, leads to stories of working with Van Dyke Parks and getting David Lee Roth's musical approval.


Country Westerns Bask in an Unparalleled Sound and Energy on Their Debut

Country Westerns are intent on rejecting assumptions about a band from Nashville while basking in an unparalleled sound and energy.


Rediscovering Japanese Director Tomu Uchida

A world-class filmmaker of diverse styles, we take a look at Tomu Uchida's very different Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji and The Mad Fox.


The Charlatans' 'Between 10th and 11th' Gets a Deluxe Edition

Not even a "deluxe" version of Between 10th and 11th from the Charlatans can quite set the record straight about the maligned-but-brilliant 1992 sophomore album.


'High Cotton' Is Culturally Astute and Progressive

Kristie Robin Johnson's collection of essays in High Cotton dismantle linear thinking with shrewdness and empathy.


Lianne La Havas Is Reborn After a Long Layoff

British soul artist Lianne La Havas rediscovers herself on her self-titled new album. It's a mesmerizing mix of spirituality and sensuality.


PC Nackt Deconstructs the Classics with 'Plunderphonia'

PC Nackt kicks off a unique series of recordings dedicated to creating new music by "plundering" unexpected historical sources such as classical piano pieces or chamber orchestra music.


Counterbalance 24: The Doors - 'The Doors'

Before you slip into unconsciousness, Counterbalance has put together a few thoughts on the Doors' 1967 debut album. It's number 24 on the Big List.

Reading Pandemics

Parable Pandemics: Octavia E. Butler and Racialized Labor

Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, informed by a deep understanding of the intersectionality of dying ecologies, disease, and structural racism, exposes the ways capitalism's insatiable hunger for profit eclipses humanitarian responses to pandemics.


'Tiger King' and the Post-Truth Culture War

Tiger King -- released during and dominating the streaming-in-lockdown era -- exemplifies in real-time the feedback loop between entertainment and ideology.


GOD's 'God IV - Revelation' Is a Towering Feat of Theologically-Tinged Prog Metal (album stream)

GOD's God IV - Revelation is beautiful and brutal in equal measure. It's a masterful series of compositions. Hear it in full today before tomorrow's release.


Ivy Mix's 'Spirits of Latin America' Evokes the Ancestors

A common thread unites Ivy Mix's engaging Spirits of Latin America; "the chaotic intermixture between indigenous and European traditions" is still an inextricable facet of life for everyone who inhabits the "New World".

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.