Beach boys in a blender!
I’m probably the last blogger alive to post a review of Panda Bear’s 2007 indie favourite ‘Person Pitch‘ so I’ll try to keep this relatively brief. It featured on the end of year lists of many music magazines and blogs and having resisted it for over a year I am suddenly unsure why I was stubborn about it. I have been an admirer, though not precisely a fan, of Animal Collective for some years now, but more importantly I am a fan of the kind of cut and paste, DIY aesthetic that characterises this album. So, on paper this should have been a shoo-in for me.
If you don’t know already, Panda Bear – also known as Noah Lennox – creates impressionistic collages from found sound, layered (home-made) beach boy harmonies and samples. Like his parent band and affiliate Ariel Pink, his music is imbued with a kind of heavily abstracted childhood nostalgia, almost an acid flashback to some indefinite sun-drenched 60s heyday when the kids were free and the pot was cheap. Again, as with Animal Collective, there is something volatile, almost nauseating about Panda Bear’s kaleidoscopic, sonic sugar-rush of candy-coloured textures. Despite the warped cassette-mimicked distortion and tendency to rather overpile the ingredients, there is a kind of Beach Boys-in-a-blender orthodoxy to his music. There is a very particular vision, and Panda Bear explores this landscape tirelessly, even repetitively. The singing – lyrics mostly indecipherable – is used more as an instrument than a vocal. Heavy on reverb, they always sound detached, abstract, never entirely lucid.
The joyous opener ‘Comfy In Nautica’ begins with what sounds like what I’d like to believe is the tracks of a big dipper – one of the those rickerty old Coney Island ones. A woozy head-rush of loops and harmonies, it recalls Caribou’s similar, more polished album of the same year ‘Andorra‘, but with a textural roughness that somehow places it closer to the 60s psychedelia that evidently influences both artists. The loop of a scateboard clattering over paving stones forms the basis for ‘Take Pills’, a drift of hazy psych pop with a little splice of stoner guitar: the sort sampled by Cypress Hill on tracks like ‘Hits from the Bong’. ‘Bros’, the album’s centrepiece, is 12 minutes plus of slowly morphing cut and paste. A bubbling cauldron of sonic ephemera it builds into a heady, almost maddening carousel of blissful noise. ‘I’m Not’ provides a welcome change of mood with four minutes of stain-glass ambience and a choral, even spiritual quality more Brian Eno than Brian Wilson.
Thereafter, ‘Person Pitch’ doesn’t quite hit the same heights. ‘Good Girl’ and ‘Carrots’ merge together to form another lengthy opus, but there are too many ideas being too loosely held together. ‘Search for Delicious’ is another ethereal ambient piece with a cavernous, Cathedral-esque resonance but is not quite as striking as ‘I’m Not’. The closer ‘Ponytail’ is just a brief reprise of the detached, Beach Boys harmonies that informed most of ‘Person Pitch’ – a strange sickly brew indeed. If you like this, try aforementioned artists and albums, or The Ruby Suns ‘Sea Lion‘.