As a founder member of Animal Collective Noah Lennon aka Panda Bear has made some intriguing and experimental music. On his fifth album under that moniker, Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper, he takes that to extremes.
Lennox has claimed that the album was influenced by 90’s rap, which you can hear in some of the drum programming, but to these ears it’s more of a nightmarish collision between the Beach Boys, Aphex Twin and even elements of early Pink Floyd. For most of the album Lennox’s voice is deliberated distorted, giving the album an almost other-worldly feel. It’s both inviting and alienating to listeners, which seems to be the point, as Lennox has said it’s a concept album about death inspired by the death of his father.
As for the songs, “Boys Latin” is a nursery rhyme of vocals over a harsh beat and “Mr Noah” is a riot of carnival noise combined with deliberatively repetitive distorted vocals.
“Come to your Senses” sounds like a band playing its instruments underwater while Lennox’s vocals are harmonised to create another layer of sound. The atypical “Tropic of Cancer” is a tender ballad where Lennox is accompanied by a harp player and the bare minimum of effects and noise. The album also contains two very short tracks, “Davy Jones’ Locker” and “Shadow of the Colossus” which resemble fragments of noise from video game soundtracks. Perhaps that was Lennox’s intention.
Overall, this is not an easy album to listen to, but as it’s a concept album about death it’s not meant to be an easy listen. If you listen closely, there are some good — almost even poplike songs — on the album, although they are deliberately ruined. This is an album which bears hearing, but whether or not it is appealing enough for repeated listens is an open question.
Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper is out today on Domino Records.