"Dynamic" by Bar PandoraReview
Following her last single "The Model" which came out in July, and acting as a trailblazer for her imminent second EP ‘Recreate This', (look out for that on November 24th, though it can be pre-ordered right now via this link: https://barpandora.bandcamp.com/album/recreate-this-ep), Bar Pandora is today offering us "Dynamic".
Every song by this endlessly fascinating & effortlessly refreshing artist brings innovation and surprise: not crude U-turns let alone cynical reinvention, but shimmies and pirouettes which take us this way & that, but ultimately are all steps in her dance.
Which is apt, as this single is self-described as having "…unleashed my inner disco-pop-babe .." and for once her enigmatic predisposition gives way to literal description.
I've long pondered about the dilemmas facing writers of dance music. By definition, they are creating content for a specific form of audience interaction & I certainly can't blame people for not dissecting the lyrics if they are busy dancing. If anything, I think traditionally dance music has gone for broad lyrical themes at best, with the words crafted to blend into the music & be part of the sonic mix rather than conveying too complex a message.
Nevertheless, plenty of famous writers have sought to smuggle deeper ideas into dance tracks & it would be deeply remiss not to mention in this article the successes of local artists such as Rheo Uno or Ivy Ash in this respect. And now Bar Pandora has taken on the challenge too.
Musically the transition is painless: Bar Pandora music has always possessed innate danceable qualities (if veering towards the trippy end of that continuum) and so for "Dynamic" we are talking about tweaks, new emphases and subtle moves: we have heard Charlie Tophill play keyboards live & on record before: in this instance her choice of sound is a more overtly disco synthesiser. With equal deftness of touch, she does not abandon her usual laconic percussion style, but shifts it into the right mode for this approach. Class stuff. Would we really expect Bar Pandora to go for anything vulgar? (The answer is "no" I hope you agree). Instead, we are served with an elegant & poised piece and one to savour.
The lyrics though are the key here and once again with a Bar Pandora record, figuring out all the reasoning in the customary oblique and non-linear flow of words. The tune suggests a sense of optimism (which I'm not sure any of the lyrics actually specifically address, but at least it's a starting point: though of course the tune could be opposed to them rather than reinforcing them..). In structure, she asks us a lot of questions (see the paragraph below) and some of the non-questions might be interpreted as possible solutions to them.
I think that Charlie is offering the community of dance as corrective to the isolating stresses of life & given the musical tone & tempo, she may be suggesting that it is another potential source of mindfulness: she also seems to be advocating the therapy of solitary dancing. After this point, the vocals, which by now are totally immersed in the soothing haze of the music, seem to effectively list the liberating & actualising benefits of living your life with a dance mindset in your head. The ideas come so think & fast that the vocals multiple to mirror this: we are left with a choir of massed Charlies singing complementing parts.
William Watson Purkey said "you've got to dance like there's nobody watching, love like you'll never be hurt, sing like there's nobody listening and live like it's heaven on earth" and although Charlie doesn't quote this directly, the idea pervades the song and possibly inspired aspects of it.
Another trait of Bar Pandora I'm picking up on through her releases is her philosophy on cover art. You may have noticed that her previous (eponymous) EP and all its constituent singles used a blurry & curiously cropped photo of children on a slide? This time round, Charlie has commissioned a great original photo from Sinéad Patching which has then again been processed & radically cropped to end up as you can see here: Charlie dressed for the dance but with only her head in shot. However even that is conventional in comparison with the crop used for the EP cover in which only her torso & upper legs are showing. You can check this out when you pre-order it, which I'm sure that you will. I suppose these are key body regions for dancing (though feet play their part too) but as to the severity of the cropping, one can only speculate? Is she saying to us that with the pictures as well as the music we need to complete the image ourselves through our imaginations? Is she declining to spoon-feed us with "complete" aspects of the package? I'm sure there is an element of conscious introduction of some enigma & mystery into her work & a desire to shun the literal & fully determinate.
At any rate, I found "Dynamic" to be a healing experience to listen to in the immediate term (I hope you do too), though it would seem that the whole idea is to offer a broader, longer-term design for life.
There is also a video to "Dynamic" which can be found here:
You can catch Bar Pandora live at the LTB on November 18th for a "Superdance Party" with the mighty Batsch and in association with both Cov Sauce & Sink or Swim Promotions then on 1st December at Just Dropped In Records with Hannah Hu.