Originally a solo bedroom project by Egyptian musician Youssef Abouzeid, PanSTARRS began from the artist’s metaphysical crisis of “putting the why into words, when every word is a pale imitation, a mere ripple in the vast ocean of being.” In February 2013 , Abouzeid released his first EP, titled “Nothingness,” with an ambitious DIY spirit. The four-track album was singlehandedly created by Abouzeid, who cooked together his talents in songwriting, recording, and production to release one of the most unique indie rock albums in Egypt this year. It was defined by his wistful sonic vision, pensive guitar lines, and detached vocals that oscillate between plaintiveness and deep contemplation. While all the songs on the album struck an emotional chord, in the song “Gold Tears” Abouzeid’s weeping guitar slides came into their own against a backdrop of a country falling into despair.
While the album received little attention at the time, it was for Abouzeid a turning point because it led him to meeting other people and, as he describes it, “becoming another person.” His second EP titled “Yestoday “ , released in October of 2013, is the product of a collaborative process with his cousin Nader Ahmed (from the electronic duo Vent) recording and mixing the album, and Zuli (from the trip-hop duo Quit Together) mastering it. This eight-track album takes a much more philosophical approach lyrically and combines it with a sound that is on the one hand more aggressive and on the other hand more defined than Nothingness.
Recorded mostly in Ahmed’s living-room studio, the album is something of a cross between the psychedelic fuzz of Tame Impala’s Lonerism and the reverbed, industrial guitar lines and fractured dance rhythms of Deerhunter’s Monomania. Standout moments appear on the album’s opening, So Little Time, and the Arabic-closer Ayez Anam (I want to sleep).
With its reverbed bass line, drum kicks, and lyrics like “So little time, so little space,” So Little Time is emblematic of too much time spent in military-enforced confinement. The song and eight-track album as a whole succeed in not only establishing PanSTARRS as rock musicians, but also present the band’s true innovation, which is rooted in an ability to express metaphysical contemplations of time and space through the ever-present galactic sounds and noise on most of Yestoday. But it is in the album’s closing track that Abouzeid’s unguarded existential dilemmas reveal themselves to greatest affect. AyezAnam is a raw, melancholic, stream-of-consciousness Arabic number filled with soft vocal echoes, a plaintive acoustic guitar and reverbed fuzz making the perfect nihilistic soundscape for his drone-like lyrics: “An empty, empty world / Fuck this world,” and later, “All the people are dying, and I want to sleep, I want to sleep.”
Both albums reflect Abouzeid’s metaphysical search beyond the confines of time and rules. Much of his work questions the things we hold as true, and Abouzeid himself does not believe there is anything true in the absolute. He would rather live in the abstract, not defining things — having the listeners come up with their own ideas about this music.
“I like to play music by myself, there is no one I really want to play with and no one I really want to be like,” he explained in 2013. “Any music I can’t relate to I reject. I like anything real, anything that sounds real. The truthfulness of music is very subjective. Anything that allows me to perceive my own ideas, I like. I like music that is loud, that is vague, because it allows me to imagine it in the way I want.”
The new PanSTARRS EP , titled ” Ghaby Ghaby Ghaby “ released in October of 2015 , takes a slight eerie turn towards dark, measured beats, heavy synth bass lines and, crisp guitar riffs. Youssef Abouzeid’s vivid and somewhat controversial, witty Arabic lyrics give off a sense of bleak ambiance to their sound and perspective, and it feels unconventionally brilliant to be able to decipher every word. Nothing short of interesting though; all the bits and pieces put together create an aesthetically dark product blistered by social awareness, existentialist introspection, navel-gazing and passive aggression all powered by state-of-the-art musical elements that probably trace back to 1980s Electronic Rock/Synth Pop era only cradled with unprocessed innovation and a false sense of retirement.
PanSTARRS is gaining more and more listeners with each album and each show, even still, it remains within the indie rock niche. While many musician would be disheartened by this, Abouzeid is unaffected by it. PanSTARRS is his baby and he won’t compromise on the music — even if it means not reaching a wider sector of audience. He is resigned to the fact that most Egyptians won’t get it, so, for him the music is as much about his enjoyment and his creativity as anything else.
In any case, Abouzeid’s head is elsewhere. With changes to the band’s lineup due to study, work and army duties, the music is bound to take another turn in the near future. The lack of consistent musicians usually ends projects and bands, but for Abouzeid each change is another phase of development. His music, he says, is like having a child: With each phase it develops and matures and becomes something new and interesting.
PanSTARRS are constantly supporting local and international underground artists on Facebook where they’re up to date with every new release from any artists they appreciate, so you can head to their page and have a listen and compare quality stuff, Egyptian or other, that’s worth promoting, to the mediocre nonsense we blindly support in the country. Abouzeid is also part of another project called Shlomo Casio, as well as once being part of a band called Manzouma with Ali Talibab who does spoken word.
( Sources : www.cairoscene.com , www.egypttoday.com , www.theguardian.com )
PanSTARRS بان ستارز - Nothingness EP
01 Morning Drive
02 Home Is Now
04 Gold Tears
PanSTARRS بان ستارز - Yestoday
01 So Little Time
03 Pink Trees
04 For Yanni (Kossom Yanni)
05 Off Love
06 In Bed
08 Ayez Anam
PanSTARRS بان ستارز - Ghaby Ghaby Ghaby
01 Khally Balak Hatmoot
02 Men Gheir Wa7da
03 Tortit Naml
04 Sahla Ya Khaifa
05 7omar 3ala 7osan