Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper: A Brighter Depiction of Gloom
By Conor Barrett
The ever reclusive and subtly surprising Panda Bear has escaped from his cage yet again to give us a glimpse of the world through his eyes and into our ear holes. As he continues to come to terms with his own existence and the alterations thereof, Panda (AKA Noah Lennox) sheds a colorful and uplifting light on those dark and stormy ponderings that many realists or disappointed optimists are unable to shake. Gaining confidence as a solo performer without the backings of the rest of Animal Collective, ‘Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper’ reveres itself as a major stepping stone – or bounding boulder- in the progression of one man’s desire to express himself through sound. More specifically, a kickass collection of hauntingly reassuring samples laid under Panda Bear’s increasingly sanguine brand of vocals.
Though it may be difficult at times to decipher though his signature fugue (both definitions apply) delivery exactly what he is conveying, the sense of honesty cannot be ignored. Grim Reaper guides the listener through a journey of self-reflection that can either be observed from the outside or taken into one’s own. Taking a look at the album’s website (link) lends credence to one rather uniquely visual interpretation of thoughts and images provoked. What’s so delightfully confusing about the sound is the seemingly conflicting aura of darkness surrounded by the overpoweringly melodic and complex rhythms. While ‘Tomboy’ and probably more so ‘Person Pitch’ seem to have been an outlet of releasing trapped insecurities, PBMGR has managed to have found the funky side of self-help. The weight has been lifted off his shoulders and now he wants to dance.
‘Sequential Circuits’ leads off the album with a watery mixture of light sounds and drawn out vocals very reminiscent of albums past before flowing into ‘Mr. Noah’ which sets the tone for the rest of the album. As a collection of toe-tappingly catchy beats and equally memorable harmonies, Mr. Noah Lennox provides a fifty-one minute soundtrack that can somehow seem to fit into any situation. He managed to achieve this by removing himself from any familiar situation, location wise, by transplanting himself to a completely unfamiliar home in Portugal in efforts to find a new self and sound. We can be thankful that he has accomplished this with ‘Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper.’
Listener beware: listening to this album at high volumes with a canine present may send said dog into a tizzy of confusion. With themes of impending mortality and excessiveness, it would only be fitting that dogs should be thrown in as well, right? Somehow it works. Somehow. While we’re at it, slow it down with a sensual piano based piece in ‘Lonely Wanderer’ for a period of contemplation and doubt. It’s an album that certainly has potential to find numerous tracks on the FM waves but must be fully appreciated in its entirety to get a taste of the personal and intriguing complications of Panda Bear.