Animal Collective's lofty critical esteem and commercial success have surprised the indie rock world, since the quartet's sound hurtles schizophrenically from feral tribal jams and ebullient Beach Boys-style pop to psychedelic mantras best sung around mysterious campfires. But then Animal Collective's members split from the mother ship, and things got really strange.
Case in point: Person Pitch by Panda Bear, also known as AC's Noah Lennox. Young Prayer, his 2004 debut as Panda Bear, showcased his skeletal lo-fi guitar scrabble and pain-wracked vocals that eulogized his recently deceased father. But on Person Pitch, Lennox's sound springs from a much happier headspace.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom that says great art derives from pain and conflict, this disc radiates a warm aura. However weird the cover art is and it is the joy of childhood and general human contact is in that photo collage. And from his new base in Portugal, Panda Bear has conjured a fresh hybrid sound that weds the spaciousness of dub to the sundown soliloquies of the Beach Boys' halcyon Pet Sounds era. Highlights include the opener "Comfy in Nautica," which features reverb chants that radiate boyish earnestness and some (nonthreatening) spirituality, and "Good Girl," in which urgent tablas, a serrated guitar loop and chopped-up gobbledygook give way to another sunshine pop passage that Lennox gradually dubs up into a music-box fantasia. It's one of the best WTF? songs of the year, and it encapsulates Panda Bear's slyly deviant charms. Go ahead, try and guess what he or Animal Collective are gonna do next.
Dave Segal writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].