Plugging into Thailand’s Plern Pan Perth
THE EXPERIMENTAL THAI MUSICIAN IS A CHILD OF THE DIGITAL AGE.
Thanat “Pete” Rasanon is known for blending traditional Thai folk music with heavy production.
So, when asked what it means to be Thai, his answer is surprising.
“It’s a melting pot of different cultures, so Thai is not Thai in a sense,” says the Bangkok-born experimental musician. “I grew up on the internet. The internet is my culture.”
Pete’s sonic project, Plern Pan Perth, favors dreamy synths with pop and hip-hop inspired high-tops under record scratches and lazy melodies. But with his latest release, Sly (2017), the 27-year-old artist turns down the volume on his production chops, applying manipulations gingerly and separating verse and chorus with vocal layers and gentle reverb.
Warm minor chord progressions never quite meet resolution, beckoning the listener to introspection, a comfortable state for Plern Pan Perth. His pseudonym lists the names of Pete’s mother would have given to brothers if she had more children, and sometimes his lyrics mull over family anecdotes.
“Love From Northeast,” on the musician’s 2015 debut album Hidden Home, for example, is an ode to Pete’s 87-year-old grandmother, whose childhood in the northeastern Thai province of Sakon Nakhon was defined by the absence of her father, a police officer who died when she was 10 years old.
“I’m missing you,” Pete repeats over wobbling electronic production in the hook in Lao, the language of his grandmother’s youth. Wisps of traditional wind instruments and electronic delay emulate his grandmother’s pain. The song transcends generations of trauma as it slides from acoustic guitar into something more psychedelic.
According to Pete, the themes from his grandmother’s childhood are still relevant: “My grandmother lived through World War II, and the same things, like nationalism, still affect her today.”
Pete’s live performances morph in mood thanks to a radio transistor, Pete’s on-stage sidekick. His sets follow little structure as he live-samples random radio signals and frequencies and adapts his sound to the audience’s vibe.
“my refrigerater humming is meditative for me.”
That’s when Pete’s eclectic musical influences, honed over years in his bedroom, really shine. There are tinges of classical guitar he learned early on, riffs reminiscent of his high-school heavy metal band, countless hours spent playing video games like Guitar Hero and watching movies, Thai TV dramas and cartoons.
The artist’s early singles, namely 2014’s “TODAY FOREVER” and “Kodnaglua Yedmae,” are a similar mish-mash, only with harsher, nightmarish effects of the screams and laughs you might hear at an audio installation in an avant-garde gallery.
“I hear music throughout my everyday life,” he explains. “For example, the buzz of the air conditioning or my refrigerator humming is meditative for me. I can hear interesting notes and sounds from them.”
But experimental overtures still preface the pop sensibilities of Pete’s current work. Though interrupted by manipulated vocals, “TODAY FOREVER” features Radiohead-esque arpeggios on acoustic guitar which set the track’s rhythmic and tonal foundation.
The constant flux of different genres, production effects and personal anecdotes could come across as aimless searching for any other artist. But from Pete, it builds sounds and stories that are purely from the heart.
Listen to a selection of Plern Pan Perth’s music below or on LURE’s SoundCloud.