Fly Pan Am – Ceux Qui Inventent N’ont Jamais Vecu

Fly Pan Am
Ceux Qui Inventent N’ont Jamais Vecu

Of all the musical genres to sadly fade, probably forever, from the public consciousness, the rock instrumental might be the one most justifiably lamented. Gone forever are the days when rolling drums and surf guitar a la “Wipe Out” could eat up the airwaves for weeks, as the modern pop listener seemingly needs a more visually tantalizing package to take a song seriously. So, even though we’ve seen a reemergence in the instrumental form, with bands like Man or Astro-Man? and Godspeed You Black Emperor! picking up at different ends of the spectrum, the instrumental still seems to be a largely forgotten and misunderstood form. GYBE!’s Roger Teller-Craig and his Fly Pan Am are making good on a promise to re-educate us all on the virtues of good instrumental rock.
In all truthfulness, most rock fans will say that the rock instrumental never truly left us, it just became subsumed into the more avant-garde trappings of experimental improvisation. And while this may be true, there is a distinction to be made between Fly Pan Am (or Sonic Youth for that matter) and bands like Tortoise or any number of the experimental sonic collagists and modern noise composers in that this approach can bare results that are both progressively rendered yet intuitively appealing. In short, they can make your body move before your mind. For those of us who would still rather listen to a Booker T. & the MG’s record before reading a John Cage tome of music theory, this is an important distinction. And there is no denying that Fly Pan Am deliver on both fronts. The tight funk grooves, giving way to hypnotic spiraling guitar and screeching glitches of “Rompre L’indifference de L’inexitable Avant Que L’on Vienne Romper le Sommeil de L’inanime” or the slow bass groove and dissonant toy piano of “Univoque/Equivoque” are both anchored on an easily recognizable musical motif that doesn’t require squinting or head scratching to decipher.
No doubt, the distinctly high-minded approach born of those famous Canadian socialists in GYBE is carried over in Fly Pan Am, as one can tell by looking at those sentence-long song titles or by hearing the various intentional skips, stops, and glitches in the disc that will have you yanking it out of your stereo to see if it was somehow scratched in packaging. Still, through this all, you never feel alienated as a listener. You never feel as if the joke has been aimed at you, because even if it has, you’re allowed to laugh at its punch line. It’s quirky and distinct, entirely idiosyncratic from the waves of boring post-rockers. It values rhythm and thumping bass lines as much as obscurity.
Overall, Fly Pan Am teach that once again the groove reigns supreme with instrumental music and, more importantly, that an experimental and intellectual approach can reap bracingly accessible aural rewards. Sure, there are a few moments of pure white noise that don’t really warrant repeated listens in my humble opinion, but they are relatively rare and (I suppose) fill out the sense of contrast in the set. When followed by unbelievably bouncing funk grooves, as in “Arcades-Pamelor,” the approach is particularly effective. Similarly, the album goes out on a couple of incredibly repetitive tracks of wind chime-ish noise over repeated single keyboard notes, before giving way to the closing thundering drums and swinging sci-fi rock of “La Vie Se Doit D’etre Vecue Ou Commencons A Vivre” that recalls Add N to (X) more than GYBE. In the end, it’s all part of a greater whole, and you take the dissonance with the hypnotic grooves and ride it all out in one chaotic package that makes you realize how it truly does take a special talent to craft rock without the obviousness of vocals.