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‘Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper’ Reviewed


‘Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper’ has been out for a month, and like death, which is at the center of this album, I had avoided writing about it… not because it is a morbid album, it is just the opposite actually, but because it is a very busy and lively thing that may evolve like a living being in front of you, escaping your thoughts and ideas at each listen.

I have a strange relationship with Noah Lennox’s music, I overall like it, sometimes love it, but his music is strange, very unique and extremely recognizable, like a complex planet that I don’t want to inhabit all the time. And this new album is no different, it opens these strange and colorful visions of psychedelic sounds which can be overwhelming but which never cease to intrigue and amaze.

Despite the title of the album, many of the songs are buoyant, and listening to ‘Sequential Circuits’, ‘Mr Noah’, ‘Boys Latin’ or ‘Come to your Senses’ is similar to stepping in an enchanted and mysterious and swampy forest, populated by frogs, fireflies, crying wolves and flying insects. I am well aware that most of this is produced by electronics, but in Lennox’s complex sonic jungle, each sounds seems as alive as each leaf and soil particle of a sparkling rainforest. It’s a gigantic maze where there is no clear recognition of a particular song at the first listens, and where you can get easily lost until ‘Tropic of Cancer’ arrives with its artic wind and clear harp, its Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker theme and Lennox’s eerie vocals, which are almost distinguishable for the first time… the beauty of the soaring and emotional melody matches the lyrics, ‘It’s all in the family/And then/You sneak it all away/When they said he’s ill/Laughed it off as if it’s no big deal/What a joke to joke no joke’… ‘you can’t get back, you won’t come back, you can’t come back to it’, obviously dealing with the death of a family member – Lennox lost his father to brain cancer in 2002. ‘Lonely Wanderer’ has more of this classical inspiration as if a Debussy prelude was battling flying cosmic particles, whereas the rest of the album floats between a dance-y, post EDM slow jam during ‘Principe Real’, and a throbbing rhythmic synth during the intriguingly-entitled ‘Selfish Gene’, which echoes the previous song and its line ‘To break what’s in the DNA’.

There are a lot of grooves, vibes, noises as the album progresses, and beside the tranquility of its clear tropic midway through, the album is a living entity which sounds like a massive planet of sound, and whose tracks, not clearly identifiable from each other, breathe in synergy, transcend genres and categories, and bring piercing-the-buoyancy-and-the-fuzziness hooks and hidden-behind-reverb-recurring-vocal-motifs. I am not sure if this album is dark or joyous, the grim reaper looms out of the entire enchanted forest through choir-like hymn, aria-like songs and disorienting soundscapes, and Lennox’s backyard may be a beautiful graveyard often turning into a messy tune yard. However, the closing track and anthemic ‘Acid Wash’ seems to celebrate a victory, ‘Graph the spasm/I’m past’, are Lennox’s last words, and it is a triumphant march, unless it is one into death?

‘Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper’ is Noah Lennox’s fifth album as Panda Bear and has been out since January 9th.

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