It’s still early 2014. We are in the middle of Europe and if we like to follow Austrian rock trio JA, PANIK it’s time to change our mind and time to change the place that we inhabit.But not in a physical way, it’s more about the perception.
– All round us the world, Inside us the Galaxy –
On their newest album JA, PANIK celebrate the hypothetical idea of an imaginative utopia. But why to build an idea of an idea? For what to draw simulacrum of a travesty?
What the band is giving us, isn’t the master plan for the ultimate world improvement. It’s not the “What if, there would be no…” , it’s just the “What if”. It’s the desire and the wishfulness for a highly subjective construction of a better place and the dream of going there. No need to constitute a leader or a higher power, no need to proselytize the people, because anyone can totalitarianism. This is a journey, and if you like to come in, just enter. It doesn’t matter how long that ride will take, it doesn’t matter where we will do a stopover. It’s just important to know what our destination will be. And that place we talk about, is called Libertatia.
– Where we are is always Libertatia –
Liberalism? Maybe its mass suitable offshoot. Liberty? Its incarnated glance. Libertatia? Its more than that. It’s the tale of a forgotten place, a colony near Madagascar, founded by pirates. A place that’s often attributed with such terms as anarchy or equality, but whose existence isn’t approved until today. This semi virtuality and the romanticism that inheres to this loose concept of an ideological cleaned paradise is enough for the band to pack the bags and go for it. JA, PANIK lend that name, they lend partly its meaning, but at the end they fill it mainly with a bunch of own associations. Like treasure seekers they found a term, a story, or such an field of interest to dig it out, to unearth it. Libertatia is therefore the ship, the crew, and the treasure the whole journey is directing to at the same time. But in its own guise, in its own sound and above all, in its own language.
– One World, One Love, No Nation –
That whole concept doesn’t know any borders. I doesn’t describe a you or a me, it’s all about a we. Next to a bunch of subtle political statements of liberty, equality and fraternity, all leant on the undertone of the already described buccaneer’s final harbour, that’s also shown in the design of the whole record. Still remarkable is the missing language barrier, which the band has never known. Singer Andreas Spechtl is mixing German and English parts in nearly equal shares since the beginning of their musical career. What fits into his wanted unit of meaning is used by him intuitively, like there has never been another way of writing lyrics. For Libertatia he uses french as well, and opens up another layer of language that’s able to give us access to another layer of meaning.
Also borderless and in a state of flux: the band itself. Always constituted as a kind of collective, equally friends and bandmates, JA, PANIK have changed personally on this album. After leaving the of two bandmates, the band’s usual base for the post-punk and rock’n’roll driven sound was reduced to a classical guitar – bass – drums setup.
– We are in the sound for all time, the song is over, the music remains –
What’s easily often turns into the beginning of the end for so many bands, was the starting point for an unexpected development of the sound and the concept in the case of JA, PANIK. With the aim to record another first album, as they said in an interview, the band started to recreate their sound and the way of recording. If a more or less traditional rock band live situation usually was the preferred choice, at least on stage, this time the band started more and more to decentralise their recording and arranging. What we get is an eclectic mixture of different elements on one album that’s often far away from that traditional rock sound, which was shown snappy with tightness and loudness on their previous records. Libertatia creates a fully new sound design. We found more and more synthesizers while distorted guitars step aside a bit and some pop melodies come more forward. Songs like the title track Libertatia bring that kind of distant coolness, such an airy sound high above the clouds in fashion of early heroes of Neue Deutsche Welle (NDW) that made career in the 80’s, also beyond the German language area.
JA, PANIK cites those without stealing but always with updating it to a sound of today. Even their old fashioned dandyism is showing up on songs like Chain Gang and Post Shakey Time Sadness to give them such inviolability that only Lou Reed brought in times past. All that is still spiced with a dash of the bands very own, always well educated humour. Subcultural political slogans like ACAB suddenly become the meaning All Cats Are Beautiful in the same titled song. In the meanwhile they create their really cryptic but also intimate stories of nightly walks through the most dirty streets, how to secretly disappear and of course again and again that whole utopian Libertatia construction. What remains after the 10 songs of JA, PANIK‘s fifth album is for sure a divisiveness. It’s the nosiness and surely the wish to press play again to get deeper into that journey and to join the crew on their way to elsewhere. In same way the new longplayer is able to set a bunch of personal and fascinating imaginations about an utopian Libertatia, or however you would like to call that place, it maybe will confuse a bigger part of the listenership.
“Libertatia”shows a totally new shape, hence a new version of JA, PANIK, that is mostly dipped into a thick layer of pop music, which is always something good but also in need of getting used to it.
NBHAP Rating: 3/5