Ja, Panik - polyglot pirate romanticism? | Music | DW | 17.02.2014
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Ja, Panik - polyglot pirate romanticism?

A story goes that Madagascar was home in the late 17th century to a republic called Libertatia where liberty, equality and fraternity were more than just utopian ideals. Berlin's Ja, Panik takes up the theme in music.

Around for nearly ten years, Indie band Ja, Panik started out in Vienna as a quartet but headed to Berlin five years ago as a trio. They see themselves not just as musicians but as artists working with both text and visual media.

That's clear in the press release for their new album "Libertatia," where the three point out the highlights of their new CD in an ironic manifesto. Mastermind Andreas Spechtl points to numerous side projects that don't necessarily have anything to do with music - at least, not with the music of Ja, Panik.

Bass guitarist Stefan Pabst draws out another, unexpected aspect of the group's activities. "We have a little collection, our fashion label, where we engrave ornaments onto ashtrays or shot glasses - or sew all kinds of stuff."

The cover for Ja, Panik's new album, Libertatia

The cover for Ja, Panik's new album, "Libertatia"

Falco meets early Yazoo

Ja, Panik's fifth release, "Libertatia," took over a year of recording work in the studio. Having taken their sound in a new direction, the three late-20s rounded it out, making it more listenable and getting to the point quicker and more directly.

Around two years ago, the band "came across this strange story about an anarchistic pirate commune in the 17th century." Beyond liking the ring of the name "Libertatia," they seek to develop and reinterpret the original idea, so the album goes beyond just invoking a historical prop.

Even if the title sounds like the latest sequel in a Johnny Depp movie franchise, the band's new music is anything but. Rich in 80s retro-electro pop, it's more like Falco meets early Yazoo.

Berlin's pan-European mix

Until now, the trio's albums have picked up some of the same threads: highly provocative music with noise elements, screeching rather than singing and expansive German-English lyrics. Sometimes the two languages mix in a single song.

Andreas Spechtl during a live performance at DW's studio in Berlin (c) DW

Andreas Spechtl - philosopher at the microphone

"Libertatia" shows a perceptible shift in style. Ja, Panik's music is now quieter, poppier and more broadly accessible. The language mix has grown wilder though. Lyricist Andreas Spechtl says German-speakers' daily lives include "some Italian, a bit of French, even some Arabic," certainly in parts of his adopted home of Berlin.

Spechtl says he likes making his way through the German capital and hearing fragments of Italian, Spanish, Turkish and all sorts of other languages mix. For him, the album represents "more a description of the status quo, how it is in our bars, in our lives, on our streets." The result is clearly pan-European.

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