Music

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

Constellation

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.

4
Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Reviews

Kent Russell Seeks the Soul of Florida on Epic Road Trip, on Foot

In a bit of drunken revelry, Kent Russell and his buddies decide it is their destiny to tell the gonzo story of Florida in the time when Trump is campaigning for president.

Music

The 12 Best Brian Wilson Songs

From massive hits to obscure, experimental pop compositions, Brian Wilson's music is always thoughtful, idiosyncratic, and as thrilling today as it was in the 1960s.

Music

Victoria Bailey's "Skid Row" Exemplifies the Bakersfield Sound (premiere + interview)

Victoria Bailey emerges with "Skid Row", a country romp that's an ode to an LA honky-tonk and the classic California Bakersfield sound.

Music

Activism Starts at Home: A Conversation with S.G. Goodman

Folk rocker S.G. Goodman discusses changing hearts and minds in the rural American South, all while releasing her debut album in the middle of a global pandemic. Goodman is a rising artist to watch.

Reviews

Shinichi Atobe's 'Yes' Sports an Appealing Electronic Eeriness

Despite its reverence for the roots of house music, an appealing eeriness blows through electronic producer Shinichi Atobe's Yes like a salty sea breeze.

Music

Irmin Schmidt Meets John Cage on 'Nocturne'

Irmin Schmidt goes back to his Stockhausen roots with a new live album, Nocturne: Live at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

Music

Country's Corb Lund Finds the Absurd in 'Agricultural Tragic'

On Corb Lund's Agricultural Tragic, he sings of grizzly bears, tattoos, hunting rats and elk, the meaning of author Louis L'Amour's fiction, and the meaning of life.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

How Aaron Sorkin and U2 Can Soothe the Pandemic Mind

Like Aaron Sorkin, the veteran rock band U2 has been making ambitious, iconic art for decades—art that can be soaring but occasionally self-important. Sorkin and U2's work draws parallels in comfort and struggle.

Reviews

Jockstrap's 'Wicked City' Is an Unfolding of Boundaries

On Wicked City, UK art-pop duo Jockstrap run through a gamut of styles and sounds, sometimes gracefully, sometimes forcefully, but always seductively.

Music

Chewing the Fat: Rapper Fat Tony on His Latest Work From Hip-hop's Leftfield

Fat Tony proves a bright, young artist making waves amongst the new generation of hip-hop upstarts.

Music

The Bobby Lees Strike the Punk-Blues Jugular on Jon Spencer-Produced 'Skin Suit'

The Bobby Lees' Skin Suit is oozing with sex, sweat and joyful abandon. It's a raucous ride from beginning to end. Cover to cover, this thing's got you by the short hairs.

Books

'Perramus: The City and Oblivion' Depicts Argentina's Violent Anti-Communist Purge

Juan Sasturain and Alberto Breccia's graphic novel Peraramus: The City and Oblivion, is an absurd and existential odyssey of a political dissident who can't remember his name.

Music

Daniel Avery's Versatility Is Spread Rather Thin on 'Love + Light'

Because it occasionally breaks new ground, Daniel Avery's Love + Light avoids being an afterthought from start to finish. The best moments here are generally the hardest-hitting ones.

Music

Khruangbin Add Vocals But Keep the Funk on 'Mordechai'

Khruangbin's third album Mordechai is a showcase for their chemistry and musical chops.

Music

Buscabulla Chronicle a Return to Puerto Rico in Chic Synthwave on 'Regresa'

Buscabulla's authenticity -- along with dynamite production chops and musicianship -- is irreplaceable, and it makes Regresa a truly soulful synthwave release.

Film

The Cyclops and the Sunken Place: Narrative Control in 'Watchmen' and 'Get Out'

Hollywood is increasing Black representation but Damon Lindelof and Jordan Peele challenge audiences to question the authenticity of this system.

Featured: Top of Home Page

'Breathing Through the Wound' Will Leave You Gasping for Air

As dizzying as Víctor Del Árbol's philosophy of crime may appear, the layering of motifs in Breathing Through the Wound is vertiginous.

Music

12 Essential Kate Bush Songs

While Kate Bush is a national treasure in the UK, American listeners don't know her as well. The following 12 songs capture her irrepressible spirit.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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