Album Review: Paaniq – Heads in the Ditch EP

By on Wednesday, 11th July 2012 at 12:00 pm

I am reminded on almost a daily basis by all the demos, singles and albums we receive in our inboxes that there are a lot of dance music acts out there just itching to get featured on TGTF, but since I’m pretty much the only TGTF correspondent who thrives on dance (and likes writing tomes on it), those that make the cut for reviews are limited and I really can only devote space to those that stand out from the rest. I’ve started on a new feature called “What Makes a Good Dance Album?” sitting in my drafts, but it remains unfinished because I’ve been working on a bunch of Olympics-related posts and doing what I do best here as editor of TGTF. But make no mistake, dance is never far from my mind.

In June, I received correspondence regarding the resurrection of the Heya Hifi label from Stockholm, Sweden (which also has offices in London and Melbourne), and there is good reason to party. Good timing too, considering we just heard in late June of the untimely demise (or at least the stoppage of touring) of Swedish House Mafia. The reborn label’s second release is the debut offering from Stockholm based production duo / DJ tag team partnership Paaniq’s EP entitled ‘Heads in the Ditch’. Paaniq is Patricio Cabezas and Nicholas “Nic” Oja, who according to the press release met in autumn 2010 and set out to create their own recording ‘free zone’ in the southern island of Sodermalm and “set to work on ‘marrying synthesizers and other electronic noise boxes with the organic and multi-dimensional mother earth’”.

While the bit of press release I just shared with you makes it sound like they’re trying to be electronic Mother Theresas, it’s the title grabbed me first: what are heads doing in a ditch? Whose heads are these? Did someone just wipe out and total their car whilst drink driving? I never did find out, but what I am sure of is the sheer funkiness of this four-track EP. Things begin with handclaps and some wigged out trills in ‘Dictator’s Greatest Speech’. Ironically, the EP version of ‘…Speech’ doesn’t contain any words until the 4th minute. (The single version, which I’ve been given clearance to post below, does, and in that respect, I’d consider it more electropop than just the straight electro dance of the EP version.) The instrumental portion builds up to the 1 minute 30 second mark to a break down, then building back up to a section I’m calling ‘the birdwatcher’s bridge’ because I’m not sure what they’re using to make those bird sounds. (If you recall the bridge between verses 1 and 2 in Delphic’s ‘Counterpoint’, you will get the gist of what I’m talking about.) After the ‘birdwatching’ section, there is an incessant backbeat while gentle synth notes are played and then you get to the really dancey portion of this song. Let’s just say it got my chair dancing after the first listen and leave it at that. While I realise a lot of people do not like waiting around for the hook or the ‘everybody get up and dance!’ moment, I think ‘Dictator’s Greatest Speech’ is a great example of good things come to those who wait and are patient.

You might think action hero Chuck Norris is a strange topic for a dance song, but Paaniq’s ode to the man will make you think twice. It takes a while to get going; I imagine the compressed blips and blurps are what aborted spaceship launches sound like in outer space. (It is at this point that you start wondering exactly which “electronic noise boxes” Cabezas and Oja have in their studio. ‘Chuck Norris’ also contains the hilarious line “Chuck Norris is like gravity / don’t fuck with it!”, practically ensuring a novelty bump in its popularity, however small. The other two tracks on this album, ‘No More Lies’ and ‘Got Soul’, are more straight forward and are darker, more sinister. Do they sound cool and would I dance to them if I heard them playing in a club? Yes and yes. Do I find them as exciting as the other two songs on the EP? No.

It’s interesting that the duo credit a trip to Berlin for helping formulate the duo’s distinct methodology of “precise, mechanical Germanic sounds merging with a Swedish sense of melody – the Swedish Tiger dances with its Führer!” It never occurred to me that being Swedish automatically leads to being melodious; the only other Swedish acts we’ve written quite a lot about here on TGTF are Miike Snow and Lykke Li, who have both taken dance music and made it their own by appealing to both indie and pop sensibilities. Paaniq will never be confused with either act; this EP is squarely in the dance realm, both in content and in sheer length of tracks, which is both a blessing and a curse, I think.

Listening to this release as a whole, I am reminded how some people have trouble cuddling up to dance music and just don’t want to give it a chance. Don’t be like me, don’t overthink it: just listen to it and see if there are things about it that you like. While behind the scenes there are plenty of wizards and electronic maestros trying to break new ground, the most important thing about dance music is its ability to get you up on on to the dance floor. In that respect, Paaniq can consider their mission accomplished.


Paaniq’s debut EP ‘Heads in the Ditch’ is available now from Heya Hifi. Have a taste of their live show from this video from October 2011 below.


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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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