Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper (4 stars)

Latest solo album from Animal Collective's Panda Bear proves a life-affirming encounter

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Panda Bear - Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

(Domino)

Just as Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks turned out to have little in common with the trusty sound palette of horror soundtracks, so the latest solo offering from Tare’s Animal Collective right hand man, Noah ‘Panda Bear’ Lennox, is neither some schlocky B-movie pastiche nor solipsistic Bergmanesque reflection. If anything, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper is a life-affirming encounter with an imaginative and engaged musician.

Daft Punk felt that they had found a kindred questing spirit in Lennox when they asked him to guest on Random Access Memories, although his use of electronica tends away from the dancefloor towards the experimental, even lysergic, making Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom the ideal production partner for this disarming album. Lennox sounds like he’s drawing on his days in the high-school chamber choir on opener ‘Sequential Circuits’, a devotional mantra rendered on hypnotic synths. For all its hymnal qualities, there’s something slightly off-kilter and unsettling about its composition, like a Magic Eye picture about to reveal its hidden image.

Lennox keeps up the distorted intrigue throughout the album, using cut-up melodies to create a sound like a choppy, partially comprehended duet with himself on the compelling single ‘Mr Noah’ and again on ‘Boys Latin’, while never losing sight of a beguiling tune on the beseeching poppy judder of ‘Crosswords’. The swooning, undulating ‘Tropic of Cancer’, with its heavenly harp effect and Lennox’s melancholy croon, sounds like it has been beamed in from a more innocent era.

Elsewhere, his pure, resonating vocals are set to a haunting 80s electro pop backing on ‘Selfish Gene’ and Aphex-style glitch on ‘Acid Wash’, while the dream pop number ‘Butcher Baker Candlestick Maker’, embellished with all manner of electro-psych touches and trippy breaks, sounds like the work of a 21st century Brian Wilson tinkering away meticulously on his captivating synth symphonies.

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