Article by: Article By: Jamie McCormick | Photo Credits: Brian Deran & Jason Nocito | Posted: 03/07/2012
Though the phrase “home recording” often inspires numerous and unpredictable reactions – anything from blatant fear to excuse-making to bouts of narcolepsy – in the case of Noah Benjamin Lennox, better known as Panda Bear, it inspired a genre-bending foray into the electro-pop aesthetic. Moving to New York in 2000, Lennox and a changing line-up of long time friends and collaborators created a new kind of synthetic electro techno sound in their apartments, combining house beats and psychedelia into an experimental texture excursion. And those “home recordings” helped reformulate the entire genre.
From the early aughts to today, Lennox has helmed Animal Collective, the idea-machine turned icon that put out the landmark album Merriweather Post Pavilion (on Domino Records), a groundbreaking project and the best reviewed album of 2009, according to aggregate review site Metacritic. But though Lennox has received some of his most rave reviews through the group, his influence and energy extend much further into the experimental underground, even nudging their way into the fringes of the mainstream. From his studio in his new home-base of Lisbon, Portugal, Panda Bear continues carving out a niche for his lofty, sweet vocals and guitar-laden, sample-heavy tunes, tossing a few transcendental lyrics into dreamscape harmonies for a touch of spice.
With four solo albums in his repertoire, all released on his own label Paw Tracks (formerly Soccer Star Records, and now co-owned by Carpark Records) between 1999 and 2011, Panda Bear provides fans with a buffet-style offering of his many talents and flavors. From acoustic to synth, he pulls from every slice of auditory existence, combining the highest grades of stimulants while escaping the cacophony of many experimental and electronic offerings. His two most recent records, Person Pitch (2007) and Tomboy (2011), greatly amplified the tone of his talent and gave a glimpse of two sides to the artist.
Person Pitch, feeding off the bounty of Animal Collective, is a sample-savvy textural wonderland that relies on a multifaceted collection of noises, running the gamut from claps to industrial noises. Tones and motifs repeat without becoming repetitive – quite a feat in the electro world, and one that sets the almost danceable album in a category all its own. Deeply rooted in music history and undeniably unique, the album evokes a sunny day, providing both the blanket and the tree to sit underneath.
But Lennox flipped a switch with his latest project Tomboy. Still ambiance-centric and intricately produced and arranged, the darker, almost melancholy album renders Panda Bear's varied inspirations into a more cohesive and progressive sonic whole. Heavier and more pounding, the record lends some heft to Lennox's line-up, but never fully slips into gloomy bleakness. Instead, it dances around the fine line between happiness and despair – the line where we may often find ourselves in our own daily realities. Perhaps the project simply shows the growth and maturity of the human condition as experienced by Lennox himself while he grew into new family roles in his life and into a new home.
With the recent placement of the track “Comfy in Nautica”--(the opener on Person Pitch)--in ABC's documentary Earth, 2100, and a growing line-up of artists on his Paw Tracks label, not to mention the continuing and wide-spread acclaim garnered by Animal Collective, the not-yet-34-year-young husband, father, and creative mastermind has seen his apartment project grow from a mish-mash idea generator into an international sensation, bringing him opportunities unimagined and giving him a taste of success in the music industry. And that industry hopes he'll stick around for a few more servings.
Panda Bear - "Comfy In Nautica"