After six years, Daniel Arthur Panjwaneey, better known as artist Alien Panda Jury, is back with a new EP that has been released by Berlin-based label, Noland. Instep lends an ear.
Daniel Arthur Panjwaneey has many credits, so much so that it’s hard to keep track of. At the same time, it shows just how talented he is and has evolved over the course of the last 16 years – since his association with music began.
Known colloquially as Danny P, he is an audio engineer at A for Aleph at present, the co-founder of Sine Valley Festival (with first two edition held in Nepal), and has also produced Oscillations, a music event featuring some of Pakistan’s finest electronic artists. He is a member of music group The D/A Method and was previously associated with bands like Messiah, Orangenoise and the Internet series, Lussun TV.
But, as Alien Panda Jury, he has two previous releases to his credits – New Earth (2011) and Sound, Science, Love (2013). A member of the counterculture movement, as APJ, his contribution to the electronic music dimension is huge and yet he remains very humble about it. For one thing, he has cleared up the fact that electronic music does not mean electronic dance music. It is much more. And calling it EDM, to me, sounds like oversimplifying a musical movement that was seen weeping at Sabeen Mahmud’s funeral in April 2015. She encouraged this movement via T2F and Danny knows it only too well. Hence, it makes sense that one song from Enneagram had Sabeen Mahmud on his mind when he was writing it.
Enneagram, his first release in six years, marks the debut of APJ to be released on Noland, a Berlin-based label that previously released Karachi Files of which APJ was also a part of along with several fantastic artists from home and beyond. It is run by brothers Andi & Hannes Teichmann, aka Gebruder Teichmann, who are also musicians themselves.
The weary generations
Released earlier this year, Enneagram by Alien Panda Jury doesn’t refer to a made-up word. Enneagram, if you Google it, refers to nine personality types. In this EP, APJ reveals what personality type he is, which requires a great deal of courage and also shows a side of him we haven’t heard before – musically. A singer and songwriter, in Enneagram, which consists of 5 tracks in total, APJ has written beautiful lyrics and sung on 3 of those 5 tracks. The other two tracks can’t be boxed in anyone particular genre or styles. Influenced by his surroundings and experiences, those two tracks fit in purposefully in this EP that shows just how much APJ has evolved since his last release in 2013.
Our introduction to singer-songwriter begins with the song ‘Type4’ which, according to The Enneagram Institute, refers to a personality type that is “the individualist, the sensitive, withdrawn: expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental.”
Now of course, this is a generic description and to be seriously diagnosed, you should consult a therapist. Nonetheless, APJ agrees that he is ‘Type4’ and it comes off in his surprisingly revealing and poetic lyrics: “Questions answered, from former pastures/frozen leaves seem, so green/ Seasons change the cycle regains/Trust to seek you(‘ll), be okay/There’s no need to be afraid/Be still and just listen/There’s no need to be afraid.”
The music accompanying this song is more avante-garde than EDM and though beats appear, they are so restrained, the complete mixture so beautiful that it is easy to lose yourself in it. They reflect the inner voice and it is a soothing electronic song.
On ‘Fear Nothing’ – a song on which APJ admits the late and forever great Sabeen Mahmud was on his mind. It shows in the sound that goes from soothing to something else entirely even as it stays within the overall sound of Enneagram. Echoing a voice we all lost and still find it hard to believe on certain days, APJ writes: “The surface has colored me whole/a loss of reaction, unstable/the purpose discovers a rebirth/the strength to define us a new world/If life was a color would we know? /Two-toned we follow externals/Dichromacy in Diplomacy is a Fallacy/But the surface has colored me whole”.
More ominous and obscure before taking on a shape of sound that says what you know is true. It’s a coming from a personal place and when the words disappear, darkness appears before APJ sings towards the end with haunting tones making up the music: “Fear Nothing/If you’ve come so far/I have something, but it’s not for you/Feel Nothing/If you’ve come so far/I have something, but it’s not for you/Come on up, don’t let down your own/Swallow the hollow of people/We’re haunted when taunted, its fickle/The past’s not today nor the future”.
The ending of the song is like a rise from the ominous even as it continues to echo a deeper pain.
The mood rises slightly and almost deliberately with ‘Hello Kukido’ that has a music video as well, worked on by a Mexican artist and the music video is a complete trip where you see things you think mean something but actually mean something else. The song is harder to define. It is more like a meditation, if such a soundscape – recurring – designed to go up the stairs one by one is your frequency.
‘Bambusbar’ feels like an ode to nature and is maybe the most hopeful, subtle song on the EP while on ‘ElevenEleven’ where APJ sings with great clarity, “A Million years ago/ it crashed in to the Earth,/a universe/a thousand million suns away,/Never been here before,/Don’t want to be alone/Then my voice/it heard you speaking, I knew I was right at home/Relentless forces kept deceiving/you’re a light on to the earth.”
‘ElevenEleven’ where vocals don’t serve as texture but come out a lot more alive and the grooves get somewhat livelier as it proceeds. ‘ElevenEleven’ is a musical, poetic concoction that anyone can relate to for any reason in different contexts.
In the end, Enneagram is the kind of album that you should listen to with time on your hands. Running through it would be a travesty because it carries a piece of the artist APJ and art, with such soul, that it deserves better.