Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper: Lush and Deep
Panda Bear is no stranger to chunking the strangest noises together to form songs that flicker between the catchiest pop and most challenging experimental music. Without any sort of qualms about marrying the two edges of the sonic continuum, he makes music that feels just as home blaring from the car’s speakers while on a summer road trip and filling a dark basement with their strobe and smoke.
Panda Meets The Grim Reaper, while much in the same vein as Noah Lennox’s two most recent releases Tomboy and Person Pitch, announces its difference with its first two songs. “Sequential Circuits” layers melodic textures and watery atmospheres over each other into an almost dadaist imitation of music. That’s nothing new. What is, however, is the space and depth that Panda Bear achieves in this collage. Whereas his previous tracks were dense soundscapes that flattened everything to the same level, “Sequential Circuits” opens up and lets things (heard and unheard) be comfortably subordinated.
“Sequential Circuits” leads perfectly into “Mr Noah.” The track starts as a series of alien squeals and crunches. From the soup of its own noise, Panda Bear’s most energetic pop comes into existence. Deeper and darker, “Mr Noah” looks back to Person Pitch’s best moments while keeping things fresh.
Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper turns its tone from song to song. From exuberance in “Mr Noah,” to elegy in “Crosswords,” to almost FOMO melancholy in “Butcher Baker Candlestick,” the album nimbly twists itself into a knot of complex and seemingly contradictory resonances. The result is an album that begs to be replayed from beginning to end.
One of the most compelling songs of the album is “Boys Latin.” The song mixes a proto-industrial sound with a Beach Boys-esque harmony. But as with most of Panda Bear’s material classification is never so simple. The instrumental tracks have glimpses of hiphop and tastes of art-pop. His vocals play with their own echoes–giving them a polyphonic and polyrhythmic quality that is hypnotizing.
While the album shies away from 10 minute plus drones of previous releases, it retains a mantra-like feel. Samples butt into themselves to create nebulous atmospheres. Vocal phrases blur into one another, making a complex whole from simple parts. The lyrical content of the album offers a multiple points of entry and vagaries just interesting enough to catch. But dissecting linguistic messages in Panda Bear’s vocal haze is only a part of the album’s joy.
Letting the sonic textures spill out of the speakers and fill a room seems to be another pleasure the album contains. From the minimalistic swells of “Come To Your Senses” to the dance-y synth programming in “Selfish Gene,” Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper as an album moves in ways that its individual songs do not. Each tack stays focused on its center–never straying much from its original rhythms–, but the album twists and turns its mesmeric light, at one point elegaic but at another manic and at another playful. In a phrase, it lives in the disjunctive quality of our post-modern moment.