No, I spelled it right. Not Monk, but Munk. Jonas Munk that is. He’s just another stellar musician/songwriter/arranger in the El Paraiso canon. Well, he’s also one of the founders of El Paraiso Records as well as being on the roster. His main gig currently is guitar wizard in Causa Sui, but before that he had a pretty good gig as the electronic artist Manual. With Manual he created electronic music in the vein of Tycho, Washed Out, and even a bit of Moby, albeit a much more organic version of those artists. When Munk got things rolling with Causa Sui the Manual output slowed down a bit. In 2012 he took a break from creating some of the best psych rock around with Causa Sui and made an album under his own name called Pan. Although an electronic album by definition, it’s really more of a living, breathing creation that pulsates and drives like a space-aged rocket ship on a 30 year trip to the furthest regions of the universe. Leaving behind the slicker, more modern elements of Manual, Munk went the analog route with Pan and created a group of synth-driven compositions that take you on an aural journey. A journey to wherever your brain allows you to go.
Munk’s longtime pal and Causa Sui drummer extraordinaire Jakob Skott does something similar on his off time with Causa Sui; he creates solo albums steeped in analog synth warmth and tube-driven tones. But where Skott’s music is more of a dystopian, post-apocalyptic vibe, Munk’s Pan isn’t so foreboding. It’s lulls you on a cloud of orange hues and flies you into a chromed-out sunset. He dabbles in futuristic visions, but his are of the vibe that mankind’s struggles have given way to a brighter future. Skott’s Amor Fati is the soundtrack to the struggle, and Pan is the score to a new beginning.
As I listen to tracks like “Orca”, “New Dawn”, and especially “Current”, I can’t help but think of NEU!’s Michael Rother when I hear Munk’s guitar tones. There’s very much a Krautrock vibe on this album, albeit without those motorik beats we love so much. Also in the synth pulses and swaths of analog colors I can almost picture hearing this coming off some long lost Kraftwerk album. It’s a great sound Jonas Munk has created here. And especially in a short-but-sweet track like “Blue Dawn” there’s hints of Vangelis’ Blade Runner score. “Senses” lulls you into a trance with its Tangerine Dream-like wall of atmosphere, which leads into the beautiful and dreamy “Pan”. Most would laugh at this, but “Pan” actually puts me in mind of Joe Satriani. Yes, that guitar guy from the 80s that sued Coldplay. Now, I love Joe, and he was a huge inspiration to me when I was a 14 year old guitarist and I still hold a dear place in my heart for albums like Surfing With The Alien, Flying In A Blue Dream, and The Extremist. Besides being able to just melt my mind with his extremely fast playing, he also would create these smaller pieces of calm and peace on his albums. “Pan” reminds me of that calm and peace. “Schelling” is the sound of docking on the space station and searching for survivors. A synth pulsates throughout as the track builds upon itself with a bubbling arpeggiated melody line. “Sea Of Orange” ends Pan with a sense of mystery. A sunrise or sunset in some far off future? A bomb detonating taking out mankind? With the vibe of the rest of Pan in mind, I’d definitely go towards the former and not the latter.
So yes, El Paraiso are a force to be reckoned with. Pan is another stellar record from this Danish record company. Jonas Munk, like his pal Jakob Skott, has made one of my favorite records of 2014. Sure, he made Pan in 2012. But it’s new to me this year. If you’re a fan of Kraftwerk, NEU!, Tangerine Dream, and the Blade Runner soundtrack you’d be a fool not to buy this album. You’ll love it. I promise.
So far, this Monday hasn’t been too shabby.