PanSTARRS: An Introduction

It has been now over five years since the name PanSTARRS emerged in the Cairene music scene. The music that PanSTARRS creates is probably not suited for everyone’s ears but if you let yourself sink into the soundscape created by PanSTARRS, a whole new world will be introduced to you.

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(Source: Facebook Fanpage)

Usually, Pan-STARRS is an acronym for Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System. In this case it is a Cairo based band, established around 2012. It was originally a solo project by Egyptian musician Youssef Abouzeid. This is an introduction to his project PanSTARRS which released already digitally three EPs.

The first low-key EP Nothingness was released shortly after the inception of the project. Back then, PanSTARRS was performing their music in English. Maha ElNabawi at Mada Masr tells us that the 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.”

“Home is Now” is the first track of the EP, introducing us to the soundscape of Youssef Abouzeid’s work. It is starting very slow, and it establishes an indie-dream pop sound.

With time, PanSTARRS developed into something more. In an interview with Mashallahnews he said:

“It started as my solo project and then, with time, I performed gigs and began playing with a bassist and a drummer. I am still the source of the project but I’m trying to push it in the direction of being a band rather than my solo project, because I don’t like working alone.”

PanSTARRS at Room Art Space & Cafe

His music is among other things influenced by a genre which is dubbed as shoegazing meaning that is a subgenre of indie and alternative rock which started in the late 1980s in the UK. Bands to whom this kind of music is attributed are for example Scottish band Cocteau Twins, and when you listen to the song “Lorelei” you can sense that it might have been an influence for PanSTARRS’ own earlier work.

With the release of Ghaby, Ghaby, Ghaby (Stupid, Stupid, Stupid), PanSTARRS becomes more experimental in its sound and is starting to use Arabic instead of English.  It jumps between the sound created by PanSTARRS’ earlier work but creates clearly a more nuanced form of experimental music which shows that this project doesn’t stand still but evolves with each release and it doesn’t get repetitive. The first track Khally Balak Hatmoot (Be Careful, you’re going to die) has a very minimalistic approach on building the sound.

This sound continues throughout the EP which consists of five songs. The Cairo-Scene review of Ghaby. Ghaby, Ghaby says: “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.”

Concerning the lyrics of Ghaby, Ghaby, Ghaby, Yousef Abouzeid reveals during the interview with MashallahNews that:

“Most of them talk about awareness, or lack of self-awareness. About people and stupid tastes. They also talk about people’s sexuality in Egypt. The EP is neither happy nor sad. In the third song, I talk to a woman, naked, telling her to come closer and not to be scared. It means something and doesn’t mean something at the same time.”

Ghaby, Ghaby, Ghaby was pretty well received in the local scene by the critics, see for example the review made by the guys at Ma3azef.

While the music of PanSTARRS is changing with each EP, a welcome feature of Youssef Abouzeid is that he makes his work available for free on soundcloud and other platforms. It may be that PanSTARRS is still not very well known outside of Egypt but the project does have a loyal fanbase and will hopefully continue to create more music in the near future.

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