October 4 2022 12:31 PM E-paper Subscribe Sign in My Account Sign out

Polo and Pan — the art of using electronics in music

Polo and Pan
(Photo: Polo and Pan Facebook)
Polo and Pan

Jean-Claude Elias

The writer is a computer engineer and a classically trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts for more than 30 years.

Even when your favorites are Bach, Mozart, the Beatles, Adele, Simon and Garfunkel, the cool jazz of the 1960s-1970s of Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, and other similar traditional music, it is hard to resist exploring uncharted musical territory every now and then, however unusual it may sound at first listening. Especially that today’s streaming audio services with their high-definition sound option offer a convenient, tempting opportunity.اضافة اعلان

New French electronic/dance music Polo and Pan, introduced last month by a friend, gave me just this opportunity. In addition to electronic, the music style of the duo is also qualified as house and tropical. Cyclorama is their latest studio album and was released a few months ago.

From the first minute of listening, the sound had me hooked. The feeling was good from the onset. Analysis came only after.

Polo and Pan pieces are perfectly constructed. The duo avoids endless repeats and lengthy fade-outs at the end of the tracks, a pitfall, a weakness, an easy-way-out that often mars electronic music. The approach of the musicians is very smart, in many ways. Whereas electronic sounds are indeed their main ingredient, they are not the only ones. Acoustic instruments and human voices are also integrated, and in the end the result is anything but robotic. The bulk of electronic music produced in the world today is cheap. Polo and Pan’s music is rich.

These are nice songs that make it meaningful and easy to follow melody, harmonies, pleasant rhythms, and gentle beats. Whether you play them just for listening or for dancing, the pleasure is authentic.

On several of the tracks there are perfectly real human voices, singing beautifully. Strong digital effects are applied to them, but contrary to works by other artists where these effects end up damaging the voices, here they warm and enhance them. It is perhaps the deft French touch.

Track 10 on the album, Artemis, for example, features exquisite vocal harmonies that at times conjure up the classical music of the romantic period. To add pleasure and variety to the 14 pieces of the set some vocals are in English and others in French.

Attrape-coeur (Heart-Catcher) is one of the most beautiful songs of the new album. Even without understanding French, the sound will delight you. The Beatles’ John Lennon once said that the actual meaning of the words in a song is not as important as how they sound.

Bilboquet is an instrumental piece that is a traditional folkloric dance named sirba (or sarba) from Romania. It was originally composed in the 1960s by the celebrated Romanian musician Vladimir Cosma and first played on the pan flute by Romanian virtuoso Gheorghe Zamfir. Polo and Pan’s rendition is superb. It preserves the very special time signature of the dance as well as the sound of the pan flute — electronically (but skillfully) rendered, nonetheless.
Because electronic music requires very few performing musicians playing real instruments, if any, sometimes composers are tempted to use this method, since it allows them to work solo and produce albums single handedly and inexpensively. The results, however, are rarely as good as that achieved by Polo and Pan.
Some of the tracks are done with a subtle tropical music flavor. Here too, the result is extremely ear pleasing. Just like when you add spices to a dish when cooking, the right quantity, the dose is of prime importance. Polo and Pan know what “not too much, not too little” means — the amount of tropical flavoring they put into their songs is just right.

Because electronic music requires very few performing musicians playing real instruments, if any, sometimes composers are tempted to use this method, since it allows them to work solo and produce albums single handedly and inexpensively. The results, however, are rarely as good as that achieved by Polo and Pan.

Today’s DJs, among others, use electronic music and sampling software extensively, essentially to make people dance. Again, Polo and Pan have a much wider horizon and compose music that is richer and more pleasant to listen to, especially when you play it again and again.

I am not sure if and how much I will still like the music of Polo and Pan if I play it, say, a year from now, after the novelty effect has waned. But for now, it is very enjoyable, and as refreshing as a gentle breeze of cool air after a heatwave.

Polo and Pan is the stage name of Paul Armand-Delille and Alexandre Grynszpan.

Electronic music is nothing new. It started with the theremin, an instrument named after its Russian inventor Leon Theremin, in the 1920s. It remained simple, basic, and analog until the digital revolution that took place in the 1980s, when compositions and recording became complex and elaborate.

Among the pioneers of the genre we find the German group Kraftwerk, American classical musician Wendy Carlos, British duo Zero 7, and French Jean-Michel Jarre, the son of Maurice Jarre, who composed the memorable soundtracks of Dr Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia. In Jordan, composer Yousef Kawar is a reference on the subject, with several original and interesting albums released to date.


Jean-Claude Elias is a computer engineer and a classically trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts for more than 30 years.


Read more Opinion and Analysis
Jordan News