Panoram – Background Story
By his own enigmatic standards, Panoram has been rather up front about the inspirations for this sophomore set, which follows his superb 2014 debut album for Lindsay Todd’s Firecracker Recordings, Everyone Is A Door. That album, a delicious collection of hard-to-define musical snapshots, ideas and interludes – seemingly created from a mixture of old analogue synthesizers, samples, and the confused cacophony in his head – arrived with little fanfare and seemingly no solid concept. It was no worse for it, and impressed partly through his inability to settle on one stylistic thread. It held together partly due to Todd’s impeccable A&R skills, one suspects, but also because there was an innate sense of hazy atmosphere running through it.
Background Story is a little different, if only because Panoram has popped his head above the parapet to briefly outline his inspirations and the loose concept behind it. The accompanying press release describes it as a “meditation on the nature of memories and reality,” with Panoram apparently adding that the process of remembering is “an unpredictable journey in which we face a complex puzzle made by our own manipulations”. So that’s cleared that up, then.
While it would be easy to sneer cynically at the pretentiousness of it all, it does at least give the album a hook that was missing from Everyone Is A Door. The track titles, too, hint at worries about memory loss – “Fog”, “Mind Puncture”, “You Are Correctly Lost”, and so on – though the often drifting, woozy and curiously paranoid nature of the included music suggests this may have something to do with the muddled thinking that results from extensive weed smoking. This may not be the case, of course, but there’s certainly something kaleidoscopic, horizontal and fuzzy about much of the music on Background Story.
Without the declared concept, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this album was produced at the same time as Everyone Is A Door. Like that album, it is musically varied, and gains much of its allure from the use of sci-fi synthesizers, and refuses to settle on any one groove or stylistic feel for any length of time. It, too, saves it’s most expansive moment till last, the undulating synths, soft-focus Balearic guitars and lo-fi jazz rhythms of “You Are Correctly Lost”, one of many highlights.
Of course, some of the musical reference points are different. As well as his usual musical staples – variously droning and shimmering synthesizers, weary chords, bubbling ambience and half-remembered Tangerine Dream style mood pieces – Background Story also touches more on jazz. A case in point being the spine-tingling title track; a heart aching piano lament, while one of the album’s other finer moments, “There Was a Hole Here”, is as tactile dream-pop as you’re likely to find. Interestingly, it features his vocals and lyrics that reference his brain in odd and unusual ways. Perhaps he has been smoking too much?
Without Panoram’s grandiose concept, Background Story is a fine album, packed with thrillingly atmospheric compositions that gleefully sidestep genre boundaries. This has more to do with his skill as a producer and musician than any overriding theme. He could have released it with little explanation, and it would still have impressed.
1. Mind Puncture
2. There Was A Hole Here
3. Black Milk Shower
4. Background Story
6. Dead Plastic
7. The Persistent Image Of The Left Eye
10. You Are Correctly Lost