Artist Spotlight: Polo & Pan
Polo & Pan are fully aware of how much childhood shapes one’s musical tastes well into adulthood. The Parisian duo (Paul Armand-Delille and Alexandre Grynszpan) gracefully capture the nostalgia of those formational years and translate them into dusty dancing soundscapes that spark immediate feelings of joy. Armand-Delille says their sentimentality is by design.
"It's really an emotion I always connected to even as a kid, I would see old movies from the 50s and I would always love it. Old stuff was interesting. It was precious and it was rare."
Their sound emerges from the dusty depths of vintage record collections. and rare cultural finds. It's realized on dance floors across the world. They mine sounds as disparate as French house, 50’s era Disney movies, and ancient children’s songs. You can hear it in their recent release “Ani Kuni,” from their recently released album "Cyclorama."
“Cyclorama,” pulls on the threads that weave through the human lifecycle. Polo & Pan lead us on a musical journey from birth and childhood through adulthood, death, and eventual transcendence (whatever that may be).
“Ani Kuni” was inspired by a song both artists sang when they were young. It was popularized in the '70s by French-Canadian singer, Madeleine Chartrand. It's omnipresent in French culture, even Grynszpan’s young son sings it now.
When they heard Grynszpan’s son singing it, they were inspired to delve deeper into its history. Originally a Native American hymn, the song has been around for 4,000 years. Its origins have been traced back to both the Iroquois and the Arapahos, even though their linguistic traditions vary widely.
With each Polo & Pan release comes a powerful visual element. The video for "Anu Kuni" is drenched in their personal history. The muted colors of a late 70's era cartoon float off the screen. It amplifies the joyful nostalgia. It pulls the thread of the beloved childhood refrain by adding a retro educational element. If you grew up on School House Rock or were a fan of Sesame Street’s interstitial animated number songs, this one is going to hit you right in the feels.
It’s fascinating two artists with such a symbiotic overarching vision for their work managed to find each other. They met the iconic era-defining Le Baron nightclub. A celebrity hotbed on the early aughts, they were both resident DJs. It was a fitting venue to form their musical footprint.
“This club was a small club. It wasn't like a serious kind of house or a techno [club]. It was a selector DJ thing,” Armand-Delille explains. “It was all about having a good time and showing some culture and improbable mixes. So, we could mix oldies with hip hop and some electronic music.
The two got along and began to DJ together. And with such a wide sonic palette to draw from, they began to imagine the sound of Polo & Pan before they ever wrote a tune.
“We made a big musical culture there. And we realized that we enjoyed creating these mixes, these moments of colliding old music with new music.”
The flood gates opened when Alex worked for radiooooo.com, a music archeology project and kind of music way back machine. As Alex mapped out the history of recorded music, he gathered more bits of nostalgic inspiration.
Armand-Delille says, “You started to really go into this collection in time and space of music. Trying to map out the best tracks all around the world. We already had a lot of elements, a lot of baggage to create the project.”
It’s the kind of project expected of two people who have a history rooted in musical memories. Armand-Delille’s American mother was a product of the ’60s. She went to Woodstock and saw The Door's play. His French father plays classical guitar and spent time playing Flamenco in Brazil. Alex played the cello for eight years and went to secondary school to study music.
When Armand-Delille was seven his aunt Sylvie gave him a tape player. He had two tapes on heavy rotation that provide a window into how he approaches music.
“I would listen to "Scorpio" every night I'd be like, 'Wow, this is so crazy. So good.' And then I had a symphony by Bach. This intense classical music. And it made me so nostalgic and gave me like the chills every night. I just like would listen to them. Alternatively, I was like, okay, they have nothing to do with each other, but both gave me really deep emotions.”
And such is the music of Polo & Pan. An amalgamation of the old and the new. Deeply rooted in emotions and peak dancefloor experiences. These aren’t often things that exist in the same space. But with dance music anything is possible.
Those possibilities are what excite Polo & Pan. When I ask Armand-Delille what’s exciting about the future of dance music, he characteristically looks to the past to inform his response.
“There's going to be an interesting meeting between dance music in general and AI pretty soon sooner than we think. So I don't know if it's going to make some part of musicianship and writing and producing a bit obsolete because it's going to be so much easier, but it's also going to unleash so much creativity. It's just gonna make like when MIDI arrived, it made things possible for people to control instruments that they couldn't before. It's probably gonna’ create a new sound. It's gonna’ be like electric guitar arrives, rock and roll arrives. Sampler arrives, you got techno. AI arrives, something happens, we don't know yet, but maybe a new sound. And we kind of need that because for the past thirty years there hasn't been a big musical revolution. It's been a lot of mixing between different styles, but we haven't had something like techno or rock and roll arrive.”