“Two scratches, beef jerky and a Powerball”. Iggy Pop’s guest appearance on Pan Amsterdam’s ‘Mobile’, from his EP ‘Elevator Music, Vol. 1’, still infectiously runs through my head bringing a smile with it every time. In UK Vibe’s review of the ‘Elevator Music’ EP, I mentioned my affection for the closing 90 seconds of this song which features Iggy’s line repeated over that time backed by trumpet by Leron Thomas as just a great moment within a great track. The mish-mash of styles captured within that moment still remains the perfect representation of everything great about Pan Amsterdam…
The off-kilter rapper who has met with incredible success when paired with similarly inspired production is famed as the alter ego of New York jazz musician, Leron Thomas. Thomas seems to revel in presenting himself through various musical facets from his jazz roots on the New York circuits playing amongst various ensembles to ‘Leron Thomas’ – the frontman and lead vocalist for the R&B/disco-inspired project, ‘Cliquish’ (Heavenly Sweetness, 2015). The creation of Pan Amsterdam with Def Pressé marked a further stage in Thomas’s evolution that has seen him seemingly refuse to sit still.
The Iggy Pop connection extended into Thomas’s heavy involvement for Iggy’s ‘Free’ project which went in tandem with the album’s accompanying tour. And following the release of ‘Elevator Music, Vol. 1’ last year, Thomas has continued releasing music under his R&B guise with the UK’s Lewis Recordings housing the singles ‘Corporate’, ‘Blind’ and the Kid Creole & The Coconuts cover ‘Endicott’, all in the run-up to the full-length release ‘More Elevator Music’ – released on the same day as Pan Amsterdam’s ‘HA Chu’ no less!
Which brings us to the album in question, ‘HA Chu’ – the highly anticipated eighteen track album, released through Def Pressé and a project that has best been described as “the sonic retrospective of Pan Am’s international touring experience”. Throughout ‘HA Chu’, the varied and somewhat unpredictable nature of Amsterdam’s music is captured throughout even through the variety of producers involved in the project – French DJ and producer GUTS delivers with the strong album highlight ‘Carrot Cake’, Madison Washington’s Malik Ameer delivers with the eclectic and vibrant ‘Al’s Courtyard’ along with a pair of more menacing compositions in ‘Dried Saliva’ and ‘Trix’.
Sometimes with hip-hop releases, the right combination of rapper paired with apt production can allow you to just bask in the magic they’ve created. With Pan Amsterdam releases, however, although the combination is just right as regards to the production, Amsterdam is still very much the centrepiece here as you still find yourself listening intently to every line, every word, not wanting to miss any of it. His charm has always rested within his witticism and unique perspectives of the world as emphasised through numerous pop culture references: “Shinin’ like Nicholson, wielding an axe” (‘Kubrick’, 2019), “I kinda just leave it there, with the comfort of knowing, that I’m somewhat self-aware, I kiss my own derriere” (‘Dried Saliva’) or “What’s love got to do with it? Nutbush, I’m through with it” (‘Hall N Oats’).
As has been the case for Leron Thomas for a while now, the question will now be ‘what will he do next?’ With so many creative avenues open to him, it could practically be anything and while the wait will be interesting, ‘HA Chu’ will keep fans more than happy in the meantime.