It’s 2017 everybody, time to get lit up, get down and Paaaarrrttyy like it’s 1999!!
We are all about the art-punk, chin stroking, navel gazing Québécois here tonight. Mesdames et messieurs I give you Fly Pan Am, from way back in the golden mists of time*. Formed as an offshoot of 1537-faves Godspeed You! Black Emporer by guitarist Roger Tellier-Craig** along with Jonathan Parant, Felix Morel and Jean-Sebastian Truchy, the group supported GY!BE and cut three LPs in their own right. The name referenced the 1988 Lockerbie bombing – just to emphasise that this was a heavy crew.
I saw Fly Pan Am support GY!BE in April 2000 and my notes record,
‘Loud. Their songs inhabit the boundary between ‘perfect’ and ‘overly long shite’. Too much sodding around between songs’
The guru has spoken^.
First thing I like about Fly Pan Am is their uncompromising Canadian Frenchness thang, all the song titles and credits are in French. And, oh boy does Fly Pan Am have song titles for you!
- The Floorspace Is Redesigned by Huge Blue Signs…
- …And Also the Lighting of Plastic in the Center of All Its Lateral Compartments
- In Her Hair Are Sixty Circuits
- Bibi Nice, 1921
- Nice Is on Fire!
Perfect for a good sing-a-long chorus you’d think and you’d be totally right. Or would be if Fly Pan Am did trivial things like words or choruses – those are just for non-art wimps! Apparently, the first two tracks (which clock in at a combined 22:59) are so named because of musical sign posts in the tracks themselves, I can dig that, but whether Fly Pan Am gets airborne or not will then totally depend on how good they are.
Luckily they are very good indeed. Opener ‘L’espace au sol est redessiné par d’immenses panneaux bleus…’ (pause to rest both typing fingers) is a great case in point. It starts with a drift of fluttering fuzz, a guitar picks up a simple 6 note progression slowly bending certain notes and messing with the timing, then the drums come in giving us the norm that both guitarists then proceed to warp for us. The terrain shifts in front of us, very slowly moving by exceedingly minor variations each time until by six minutes in we’re scaling the type of crescendo that Mr Tellier-Craig’s other band specializes in but with the addition of some icy guitar stasis soloisting on top^^. Then after all this excitement it just lapses into two minutes of feedback and sustain at the end, a little unnecessarily if you ask me – it doesn’t add anything, doesn’t progress.
There are some interesting textures and variations hereabouts on the band’s instrumental sound throughout, ‘…Et aussi l’éclairage de plastique au centre de tout ces compartiments latéraux’, deviates from a jaunty guitar opening to low-key electronic ambientationing before switching back, almost to normality by the track’s end – bless those lateral compartments, I say.
Which is not to say I disagree with my 16 year-old vintage criticism, ‘Dans ses cheveux soixante circuits’, pleasant rippling noise that it is, just goes on for 5 minutes too long; again it doesn’t move us on anywhere and for me, dealing with this kind of music, that’s not a permissible use of vinyl. Whereas ‘Bibi a Nice, 1921’ just isn’t particularly good – far too much sodding around with silence and the old make-it-sound-like-we-just-opened-a-door-on-a-rehearsal-room trick.
Luckily for the symmetry of the record^* ‘Nice est en feu!’ is great. Again starting with a slowly warping guitar figure, some wordless breathy female vocals*^ are added into the mix, along with some interesting sound effects (I love rain sounds on LPs!) and the whole track snakes towards a final, quietly dramatic ending. This is the best track on Fly Pan Am, the most complex and the one that sounds like they have really found and locked into their own sound and the whole album ends on something of a positive arc.
Despite several minor frustrations with it, this is a good album from a band who were always going to be a lot more incandescent on stage than on wax – just like their big cousins they used volume as an extra band member and this type of slow build/hit hard music always benefits from being experienced in the flesh. Now if they could just cut out all that sodding around between songs …
PS: The fourth side of this double LP is comprised of four tracks of silence (I know because I have just listened to it twice), divided up into distinct portions of differing lengths. I’m scared. Have I just unwittingly unleased dark forces upon our world by playing this? or is it just one of those arty things.
*1999, that bit was true.
**he was the most normal, clean-cut and preppy looking member of GY!BE, my chum and I used to refer to him as ‘Sporty Godspeed’ … as opposed to ‘Ragged Anarcho-Syndicalist Godspeed’.
^trust me, they fared a lot better than the second support band Sigur Ros did with me.
^^‘stasis soloisting’ is a term I have copyrighted to describe a solo consisting of very few notes and lots of sustain (a good three minutes worth in this case) that propels the listener forwards in the track, without seeming to – an effect I’d liken to lying on your back, staring at the clouds in the sky and convincing yourself that they aren’t moving, you are.
^*I like symmetry a lot, I genuinely used to have a recurring nightmare about things being asymmetrical when I was young. True story.
*^it was after all avec Kara lacy and Norsola Johnson.
PPS: Here’s a suitably moody picture taken at our local bird sanctuary, Burton Mere.