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Panda Bear
Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
Domino Recording Company

Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper is Panda Bear's (AKA Noah Benjamin Lennox) first album since 2011's Tomboy, and it's his 5th solo album since 1999's self titled debut. It appears less than a year after his Animal Collective comrade Avey Tare put out his Enter the Slasher House (as Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks). Tare entered some creepy slasher-house, while Panda Bear faces the grim reaper himself. They are both up for some horror-show amusement.

It's been a little less than 2 1/2 years since the last Animal Collective platter arrived (Centipede Hz), but I believe the collective simply is on a hold. They are having a break to do other things, namely solo projects. And yes, Panda Bear did a guest appearance Daft Punk's track "Doin' It Right" in 2013. Well, enter Panda Bear, 'collaborating' with the grim reaper. Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper comes in a number of variants, as Deluxe sets: 3 LP set, 2 CD set, etc. including t-shirts and more. There was also some limited edition lithograph (which has long since sold out). So, is Panda Bear any good or interesting in 2015? How is his musical escapades, or his paws and claws today? Here are both ups and downs, I'd say. Noah the drummer/sampler/singer/guitarist/pianist/keyboardist/synthist has come a long way from his early steps in music. Geographically he has come a long way as well, as his current home-base (for some years) is in Lisboa/Lisbon, Portugal. Musically he still is challenging, whimsical and indeed playful. Can he keep the Panda spirit going?

Opening song "Sequential Circuits" has this sort of backwards/backspin effect giving it a 'psychedelic' snarl, or a twist or tint. Sort of cool, but more of a floating sound-web than a song. By judging the feel of and the sound of "Mr Noah", it's probably about the constructor and captain of that old Arc. Or: it could be all about Mr Lennox himself, who's also deep into the animal kingdom himself. I guess animal magnetism is a point, or is present as a force in the songs and sounds of Panda Bear. I do like "Selfish Gene" and "Acid Wash", which (along with "Sequential Circuits") brings Brian Wilson and his more experimental Beach Boys-music pop up and come to mind. Maybe Beach Boys run by Richard D. James throughout some flickering light. Or, maybe better: Aphex Twin doing Beach Boys cover versions. Unplugged (as unplugged James could be...). At other times, with other songs he recalls early Brian Eno. Maybe that's the thing. The spirit of the two Brians. Mixed and remixed, twisted and twirled.

I do like the laid-back, yet tense "Crosswords". Hey, most of Panda Bear's music is laidback and chilling, while still holding some tension as well. I also like one of the longer tracks, "Tropic of Cancer", which sees Lennox croon and mix in some Chistmas hymn mood (as some parts are highly reminiscent of "Cantique de Noël"/"Oh Holy Night"), even though it is a bit cheesy I must admit. Well, sometimes cheesy is good and tasty in some odd, strange way. The slow, spinning dancebeat of "Come To Your Senses" is quite refreshing but the song (almost) never ends. Which is this album's problem, I think. If Lennox had slimmed this album some 10-15 minutes it would have been a solid album. Even though if he has specialized in vague and slow-floating rhythms and soft and discreet melodies, he can be to the point precise and accurate if he wants to be. Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper is in many ways cool and chilling, but if you're asking me it is a bit too long.

PS! One of the sepcial packages includes a bonus platter (which can also be downloaded) being the Mr Noah EP, which was released in October 2014. This EP holds 4 songs, being the title track (obviously) plus "Faces In The Crowd", "Untying the Knot" and "This Side Of Paradise". If you're on a long mission playlisting Panda Bear, you'd better check out a couple of these tracks as well.

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You may also want to check out our Panda Bear articles/reviews: Tomboy, Young Prayer.

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