10 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT PAN

1

Pan is the Greek god of Nature, of untrammelled wilds and rustic settings. He is the player of music, the companion of nymphs, the patron of shepherd and flocks, and a bit of a lad with the ladies. Goat from the waist down, crowned with curling horns, it is sometimes written that Pan is the only god who died, though many see this as another bit of religious manoeuvring—one deity dies so that another can be born.

2

Pan is the title of Jonas Munk’s 2012 album on the always-interesting El Paraiso label. The label web site has this to say about the artist:

On his own, guitar player and producer from Causa Sui, Jonas Munk, creates pulsating, repetitive music that blends the cosmic sounds of German electronic music from the 1970s with detuned guitar-drones and modern psychedelia.

What’s not to love?

3

The opening track on Pan, “Orca”, is everything I enjoy about modern electronic music. Deeply retro, it is full of Jean-Michel Jarre swooshes and echo-laden percussion over a rhythm Tangerine Dream would have killed for in the 80s.

4

In Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson saga*, one of the major characters goes on a quest to discover if Pan has really died, as he hasn’t been sighted for quite some time. The idea of Pan as a guardian under siege, a nature patron enchained, is powerful and relevant.

In my own land, I feel crawling horror at the likely prospect of a vast toxic coal mine being built a stone’s throw from the Great Barrier Reef. Not only that, our Government—our Prime Minister, god help us—is throwing billions of tax payer dollars at the mega-rich Indian family who will inevitably destroy one of the natural wonders of the world.

If you imagine a very long paragraph consisting entirely of the sentence “For fuck’s fucking sake” typed in angry upper case, you have a general idea of the writer’s opinion of this culpable lunacy. Pan may have had lashings of sex of dubious consensual status with any number of nymphs, humans and demigods but he didn’t rape the land that gives us life and beauty.

You can see for yourself here.

But I digress.

5

Pan displays such colour and variety in the tonal palette. “Current” (A3) has swathes of Neu! guitar over a relentless background krautrock squall plus a bouncing bass-line that again evokes pulsating moments from Oxygene or Equinox. This is followed by the spacey, reflective “Senses”; Robert Schroeder meets Ulrich Schnauss (Munk has collaborated with the latter).

6

The title track of Pan opens side two and has a shimmering Cocteau Twins ambience of exquisite beauty: pearly-dewdrops’ drop, iceblink luck, eggs and their shells^.

7

Pan makes an appearance in the most luminously beautiful chapter of Wind in the Willows, keeping little Portly the otter safe and guiding Ratty and Mole to a sacred glade to find him.

“And then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fullness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humorously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter.”

That they forget this transcendent and awesome encounter only adds to the heart-opening wonder of the story.

“For this is the last best gift that the kindly demigod is careful to bestow on those to whom he has revealed himself in their helping: the gift of forgetfulness. Lest the awful remembrance should remain and grow, and overshadow mirth and pleasure, and the great haunting memory should spoil all the after-lives of little animals helped out of difficulties, in order that they should be happy and light-hearted as before.”

That’s the trick, isn’t it? To be moved and changed by wonder, grief, beauty, sorrow, but to loosen the grip on certainty, ease the nail that seeks to pin down the experience in a photo or a tweet or a moment. To remember, but also forget.

But I digress.

8

When I included the Pan album sleeve in “10 Terrific Album Covers – Part 2” in late 2015, I wrote:

“The enchanting Grimm’s Fairy Tale picture by Mathias Malling Mortensen is actually a papercut. Like lino or wood, I guess, but more, er, papery. Or maybe less inky and more scissors-y. It is the sort of beautifully understated design that you would gladly hang on your wall.”

Mortensen has gone for a bestial, Grendel-like Pan in this mysterious arboreal iteration. It is elemental and powerful and I’d still hang it on my wall.

9

“Schelling (B2) uses sequencers and a delicate descending melody in a way that evokes Cluster and the melodic vignettes of Hans-Joachim Roedelius. That this long (7’ 33”) piece slowly becomes more rhythmic and electronic amply demonstrates Munk’s understanding and appreciation of his musical influences in the krautrock kosmos.

10

The final piece, “Sea of Orange” is a long drifting comet-tail of electronica, a soothing coda to what has gone before.

Pan is a smorgasbord of all your favourite seventies progressive electronic albums, freshly pressed. Known but vibrant; accessible yet interesting; derivative and exploratory. There may not be any reed pipes, but I somehow imagine the horned demigod would approve.

SOURCES

Jonas Munk – Pan (El Paraiso 2012)

Kenneth Graham – The Wind in the Willows (Metheun, 1908)

* Rick Riordan – Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth (Puffin Books, 2008)

^ A self-indulgent in-joke for Cocteau Twins fans. Sorry.

** John Hubner conducted a terrific interview with Jonas Munk. You can read it here.

26 comments

  1. Nice story – Gotta check that album, being a Dane i know Causa Sui, but haven’t heard any Solo with from Jonas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Worth checking out, for sure. Hope you enjoy it!

      Like

  2. One of the best posts I’ve read in some time Bruce. Absolutely brilliant. And really, ‘Pan’ is one of the most underrated albums I’ve heard in years. Subtle, yet not enough to not embed itself into your subconscious.

    Excellent work, good sir.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why thank you kindly Mr H. I sure loved spinning this multiple times again. And congrats again on the fine interview with Mr Munk.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks. It was an honor to chat with him.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a new-to-me artist, so I appreciate posts like this one Bruce as an introduction.
    And any artist that finds that accessible yet interesting balance sounds like one I’d enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely on my list of 101 Electronic Albums you should hear before you go deaf. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I *knew* that scissors-y papercut looked familiar! As soon as I saw it, I thought, “I’ve seen that before, but where?” I’m grateful you supplied the answer, otherwise I’d be trying to scratch that itch all day. I went back and read my comment on that 2015 post; I’d focused on the Meco cover, not the Mortensen. The layout/design of the El Paraiso album covers is interesting, what with the album track names and length at the top, on the front, rather on the back. I appreciate the Adorno quote on the flip side of the jacket: “The price human beings have paid for their increase in power is estrangement from that over which the power is exerted.” And I very much appreciate both of your digressions…

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    1. The El Paraiso ‘house style’ is interesting, isn’t it? (As you probably noticed, there is another one immediately above Pan in that album covers post).
      And thank you so much for connecting the mine-rant to the quote, even though I’m not sure I should be encouraged to vent spleen too often! Which reminds me, can we expect another moment of beauty over at Augenblick soon?

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  5. Enough of the digressions! Interesting about Pan. I never heard of it, though when I opened your post I worried at first it might be one about Zamfir (“no, Bruce, say it ain’t so!“) – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought about it! But it just didn’t quite fit with the overall tone. 😉
      Having said that, I do have a quite interesting pan flute and organ LP. Maybe a candidate for Curiosity Corner?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think this post really Pan-ned out! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It did, eh? Relieved I didn’t need to pan the album.

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      1. Oh for sure, that truly would’ve been out of the pan and into the fire.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Really enjoyed this one, Bruce. Exceptional piece of writing.

    I have yet to pick this one up, but it’s high on my list. That El Paraiso lot sure know how to make great music, huh? You’ve also thrown this Percy Jackson shenanigans on my other list. Worth delving into?

    Diversions welcomed, too. For fuck’s fucking sake, indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are well written children’s books (with the later series being aimed at teens) retelling Greek myths in a modern American context. My boy really got into them at nine. I really enjoyed the first eight books (!).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I actually saw online that there are two Percy Jackson movies! Fancy that! Perhaps worth picking a book or two up… squirrel it away for the kiddo.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks. Good stuff. Pan Photo looks like William Ricketts Sanctuary.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Did he do anything that, er, potent?

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      1. Probably not a Ricketts sculpture (I browsed the net) but he did do some powerful stuff in a not dissimilar style –
        but an Australian indigenous idealised Pan.
        By the way, John Hewson has criticised the Adani train plan. A man who could have been PM if he’d only had managed to sink to the same level of integrity as Malcolm T.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating that I’m constantly impressed by your ability to interest me in music I would otherwise dismiss. The phrase “a smörgåsbord of your favourite seventies progressive electronic albums” would normally have me reaching for the prozac, but…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Kid. More fun than prozac, (almost) for sure.

      Like

  10. Didn’t know the artist or the album. Played it, liked it. Proper music made with electronic instruments rather than just sounds with little or no structure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed Pan, that’s great to hear.

      Like

  11. womenandbeautyblogger · · Reply

    Nice story dear 😍 Btw please check out my blog I have started blogging recently 🙃🙃

    Like

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