Animal Collective's drummer, Beach Boys' drone aficionado and only living bear has a new record out to chew at the corners of. Panda Bear was last seen with Tomboy, a fittingly delayed and overdue record of slow, grey-scale jams, and returns now with the strobe-lit Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper, which puts his voice at the forefront for once but offers the same disorientating take on sunshine pop.
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Bit of a nightmare, really. The new Panda Bear hits on pretty much the busiest day since records began and we ain’t had much time to digest seeing as though the record company sent us a promo of the bonus disc and not the album proper. There are plenty of reviews out there telling you that this is a work of unparallelled genius though so that might be enough to get you spending your well earned coin. Or you could trust that everything he does has a certain quality to it.
Personally I find Noah Lennox’s find-a-sample-and-sing-some-Beach Boys inspired-harmonies-over-it schtick fairly wearing. He has a stunt and he repeats it ad nauseum but if you like that stunt then you are going to like this. Generally it’s more in the bleepy electronic field of second album ‘Tomboy’ rather than the blissed out pastoralism of ‘Person Pitch’ though the second half of the record using some longer stretched out piano compositions. As I suggested earlier, Lennox doesn’t so much compose as find a loop and sing over it. ‘Mr Noah’ is as good as it gets with a jubilant vocal line over the squelshy electronics but at other points he treads water - there are certain vocal lines you swear you’ve heard before (particularly ‘Boy Latin’ - he can do this stuff in his sleep) though the darkwave of ‘Candlestick Maker’ impresses mightily.
To me, Panda Bear’s music works fantastically in small soundbites, its chillwave that isn’t necessarily that much better or worse than anything Washed Out has come up with, it just immediately sounds satisfying to the ear. Listen to the whole album and you realise that he’s working strictly to a formula. If you like that formula then you are going to love this, perhaps as much as you loved ‘Person Pitch’. No, maybe not that much.
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