Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper – released via Domino Records in January of this year is the fifth studio album of Animal Collective co-founder Panda Bear. Panda Bear is the moniker of American but Portugal based, experimental musician Noah Lennox. The album, which was recorded in Lisbon and co-produced by Sonic Boom, has a busy and energetic sound that was inspired by 90’s boom-bap beat construction. Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper takes you on an otherworldly sonic journey and is in this reviewer’s opinion Lennox’s best solo output to date.
The textured, beautiful and unsettling sounds of Panda Bear’s new album is one Noah Lennox’s most impressive and inspiring musical accomplishments.
The album opens with Sequential Circuits, a track that sounds like church hymns drowned in reverb – it’s an interesting song that falls somewhere between beautiful and unsettling. Track two (Mr. Noah) is the album highlight – it’s swampy looped beat, growling waves and repetitive lyrics are immersive and slightly hypnotising. The way Lennox repeatedly sings hey, hey, hey is delicious and makes your body bop up and down. Track six, Boys Latin is another stand out and continues with the celestial theme that has been slowly building since Sequential Circuits. Boys Latin makes you want to yodel alone on top of an alpine mountain- the electro-fuzz of the beat further enhancing this notion of being far, far away.
In the next track, Come To Your Senses Lennox repeats- with his signature multi-tracked vocals – ‘Are you mad?’ over an acid throb before replying ‘Yeah I’m mad’. The simplicity of the lyrics has a strange potency that is juxtaposed with the funky bounce of the beat. Another stand out is Tropic of Cancer, which features a harp sample from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, and makes you feel like you’re floating on top of the clouds. The LP ends with Selfish Gene, a track that has an 80s synth vibe in the vain of New Order. Selfish Gene is much cleaner than the other songs on the album and is the perfect closer, pulling you up and making you want to dance with your friends.
The only let down was the third track, Davey Jones Locker which despite the great Monkees reference seems randomly placed and not in keeping with the flow of the album. Davey Jones Locker is 35 seconds of ominous drones and sci-fi swirls that could have been edited out. As a stand-alone song it’s not bad but within the context of the album is an unpleasant jolt to the system.
Aside from the one weak spot, Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper works well as a cohesive whole that takes you on a psychedelic journey through a murky and chaotic present towards a light and calm future. Some have suggested this will be Lennox’s last release as Panda Bear, if so it’s quite the send off.
To coincide with the albums release, Lennox has created an interactive website that features additional new music as well as original videos by video artist and frequent Animal Collective collaborator, Danny Perez. Check it out.
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