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Dead Possum, Hospital Bracelets and Loops - A Good Trip with Panda Bear

Panda Bear breaks from the collective to watch the wheel's go 'round and 'round on his latest record.

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by Alex V. Cook, Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: March, 2007
the lead vocals are placed in the background, issuing slowly from time-lapse footage
by Alex V. Cook, Music Editor for outsideleft.com
originally published: March, 2007
the lead vocals are placed in the background, issuing slowly from time-lapse footage

Panda Bear
Person Pitch
(Paw Tracks)

As I said the other day, summer's looming shadow is cast upon me, and I am resolved to spend as much outdoor time as possible before the climate here becomes "like stepping into someone's mouth" as aptly described by a friend, so I decided to walk to the coffee shop in stead of drive. Now I don't know how much of my reading audience shares Los Angeles zip codes with much of our staff, but for those that do, walking is this means for getting around from one place to another on foot. It is most often referenced when children ask their parents "Why do they call it a sidewalk?" as one of the remaining specimens is passed from the road. I make fun, my little backwater is just as car-dependent as the Death Star on the Pacific and while this place is a mere 20 minute jaunt (if that) I've never walked here myself. Pop in the earbuds, strap on my laptop bag about which I am suddenly feeling self-conscious, and off I go on my odyssey. Scrying the ground on this trek, I observered the following:

A discarded hospital bracelet.
A freshly hit possum outside the bus lane of an elementary school.
A mysterious pile of army men in the middle of the street.
The fact that my vintage Stan Smith's are great for garnering complements from the tennis shoe aficionados, but they are not the best at arch support.

Panda bear -  person pitchThe reason that I am not only revealing the process of my walk, and reveling in it, but also highlighting the little details that punctuate the glorious monotony of Spring is because I chose Panda Bear's Person Pitch as my soundtrack, and that is precisely what he does on this record. Each song on this latest solo outing from Animal Collective's Noah Lennox is constructed around a loop, a simple and often obvious loop, the kind that those who have known the rarified pleasure of the Casio Sk-1 recognize immediately, and his Brian Wilson-meets-Martin Denny-meets barbiturates harmony and croon lilting over it. "Comfy in Nautica" sets the pace with a martial chant and handclap loop over which Lennox weaves a Surf's Up nocturne. I'm no fan of the Beach Boys, but this song gets at the heart of something I do like about them, how sleepy sing-song can become something glorious, as confrontational as a Marshal stack.

"Take Pills" has a slightly more mechanical loop to it, sounding like half-recorded packing machines over which a minimalist stoner psyche groove is placed. On much of this record, the lead vocals are placed in the background, issuing slowly from time-lapse footage. "I'm Not" is rooted around a stardust wave that persists the song and PB rides it like it's a cartoon comet, letting the mist collect in his hair. It's hippie business to be sure, but the kind that takes the infinite as some sort of empirical experience rather than something cool to talk about around the bong. "Search for Delicious" and "Ponytail" both render these droning curiosities into something closer to regular songs, particularly "Ponytail," a hushed ballad sung by a drugged children's choir.

It's in the long songs that my third eye gets pried open. The 12-minute "Bros" opens with an owl hoot and a sleigh bell jingle that makes this thing both relentless and imminently accessible. Throughout the piece, there are whooshes and rushes that sound like cars passing on the street below ones' open apartment window. About halfway through, the loops appear to double back on themselves and a more tribal campfire guitar and tambourine pulse appears. This is the kind of ritual beating system that makes Animal Collective's Sung Tongs one of my favorite records, and in many ways, this song is his finest hour, adding the right recombinant strain to the DNA at the right moment. "Good Girl/Carrots" is less successful, coming off at disparate parts that would have been better served being miniatures spread throughout the record rather than taken as a whole. Each part is a nice little jaunt on its own, especially the sing song sine-wave ditty toward the back end of it but it gets lost in a number of loops that sound like leftovers. Still Panda Bear's scraps are more interesting than most, serving as discarded hospital bracelets and squished possums on the golden road down which this exquisite record beckons you.

Alex V. Cook
Music Editor

Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com

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