You needn’t listen to Meta Major, the new EP from the local post-rock outfit Pan, to understand its vibe. From the heavenly illustration that graces its cover to the ultra-encouraging song titles — “Aim High,” “Miracle Mile,” “Baton,” “The Best Day” — the album comes decked with positivity. The instrumentals within are a succession of escalating crescendos, each one more restless and joyous than the last. This group has always been a bolt of buoyant energy, but the players have never sounded so insistent, so assuredly bright. On Meta Major, the four-year-old Pan finally sounds like the band its founders envisioned.
“We really want to take people somewhere,” offers Ian Flegas, who started Pan with fellow guitarist Nathan Stewart. “We want it to be a journey in their minds. I tell people that it’s good music to listen to while you’re running or exercising or something like that. We want people to feel like they’re on the top of the world while they’re listening to it. We want people to look at it in a really positive way, like, ‘Hey, the universe has my back. The world’s not against me.’”
These jubilant intentions have been with Pan since the beginning. Sparked by jam sessions between Stewart and Flegas while Ian was staying at Nathan’s house, one of the group’s key inspirations was Fang Island, a cartoonish blur of colorful riffs and sprinting rhythms. Its first LP — 2012’s These Are the Things I Love, And I Want to Share Them With You — surges with similar vigor, led by riffs that never stop swelling. But while the interactions between Stewart and Flegas are explosive, the other dynamics are fairly flat.
Meta Major is a fuller listen, thanks in large part to one key addition: violin. Flegas had been after Kayla Breitwieser, who now plays in Pan, to join the group three years ago. The violinist wasn’t interested back then, but she ended up dating Stewart. After hanging around practices, she soon became an integral part of the sound.
On “Miracle Mile,” she offers smooth strokes, a delicate complement to churning riffs. On “Baton,” her frenzied melodies frolic atop the band’s urgent uplift, occasionally harmonizing with effects-laden guitar. Pan has never sounded so complete.
“The violin just fills in some of the cracks,” Breitwieser explains. “A lot of Pan’s dynamics are very orchestral, so you have a lot of big, epic sounds. And what’s better with an epic sound than a whole violin section? One works for our group, but we talk about it all the time: ‘What if we had like 10 guitars? Five basses? Two drums? And a whole string section?’ We’d be the next Trans-Siberian Orchestra.”
Pan also recorded Meta Major live to tape at The Jam Room, capturing the group’s onstage presence in a way previous releases have not. It was a timely decision, as the band’s long-fluid lineup had finally solidified. Most of the players from the EP are still with Pan, and while a new bassist might be needed soon, no major shifts are expected.
This stability has allowed Stewart and Flegas to concentrate on progress instead of teaching new members old songs. They hope to enter the studio early next year to record another small platter. And while Pan was on the road more than ever this year, playing some 80-odd shows in places all over the eastern part of the country, they plan to hit it hard again in 2014, determined to expand their connections throughout the Southeast.
“You develop a sense of camaraderie,” Flegas says of the road. “That really does mean a lot with a band. It’s not just five people playing music together. You kind of develop a sense of family. That translates into writing music. It means more to you knowing that you have other people there that you can rely on.”
Pan plays Friday, Dec. 13, at Hunter-Gatherer. Hunter-Gatherer is at 900 Main St. Music begins at 11 p.m.; admission is $5. Call 748-0540 or visit huntergathererbrewery.com for more information.
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