PANGAR, “Position”
By Joe Muggs · May 16, 2023

PANGAR, the duo of DJ/producers Kwalud and Betnwaar, are based in Réunion Island, an isolated French colony in the Indian Ocean. Réunion has no indigenous culture of its own—it was uninhabited until French settlement in the 17th century. Its population’s heritage—via slavery and trade routes—came from Africa, India, Europe, Madagascar, China, and elsewhere, and its culture is a constantly evolving fusion of all of those and more. PANGAR emphasize that quality heavily on their latest, POSITION, with voiceovers proclaiming the power of hybridity and “open thoughts, creole thoughts” on “(cHAo$ MonDe).” Their beats are built for a world in flux, with dancehall, Afro-Latin soundsystems, techno, industrial, even heavy metal all in the mix.

As the mention of “metal” might suggest, this is not all hip-grinding party music. But it’s not not that, either. Though there’s a lot of distortion and plenty of threatening atmospheres, the mixdowns are super tight, and the finely crafted dynamics and punchy riffs give it the same thrill-ride sensation as heavyweight ‘90s techno and breakbeat—even when the tempo is down at a low and slow dancehall lope. Like a lot of the output from the Uganda label Nyege Nyege tapes, PANGAR expertly tread the tightrope between aggro experimentalism and the pleasure principle.

Perhaps appropriately for a tropical island known as much for its unspoiled jungle and long clean beaches as its colonial rule and military outposts, this often feels like music for a rave on the edge of the world. Its function will change with context: It’s possible to imagine, say, the acid dancehall of “lucy#97424” working equally well when mixed into kuduro and bashment with sirens and MCs upping the party energy, as it would in and amongst The Bug-style industrial dub bleakness for darker, moodier clubs. Indeed, you’ll catch different moods from these tracks with repeat listens—and this album is worth repeat listens: There’s a huge amount to unpick under those distorted drums and squawking rave riffs.

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