We Know It’s Only Rock N’ Roll But We Like It

PLEASE DON’T FEED: Panda Bear, First Unitarian Church, June 25th

BY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR THE INQUIRER The great advantage of our shiny white iPod-abetted Information Age, where the far-flung chaos of recorded music has been organized and arranged into the orderly feng sui of alphabetized and easily-accessed mp3s, is that innovative music-makers like Panda Bear can connect the dots and create unexpected and stunning constellations of sound that cross the once un-breach-able barriers or time, space and genre. I can think of no better explanation, barring something being in the water, for the way that Panda Bear’s Person Pitch combines the woozy Smile-era chorales of the Beach Boys with the hypnotic loops of Steven Reich’s minimalist experiments and the effects-pedal-hopping of early ’90s British dream-pop merchants My Bloody Valentine. Truly heady stuff, that.

Panda Bear, for those not in the know, is a member of Animal Collective, the extremely popular and utterly inscrutable experimental psychedelic folk band, noted for its reluctance to allow the faces of the bandmembers to be photographed. As a result, they often don lurid Halloween masks for group photos which only adds to the music’s otherworldly mystique. In addition to the band’s six extant albums, various band members release solo and side projects, with Panda Bear’s Person Pitch, released this past spring, being the latest. Panda Bear’s performance at the First Unitarian Church — immortalized as hallowed indie-rock ground in a recent episode of The Gilmore Girls — sold out almost as soon as tickets went on sale.

Standing before a mixing console through which he fed and tweaked pre-recorded loops of sound, with a mesmerizing and constantly-morphing display of psychedelic fractals projected on the screen behind him, Panda Bear — aka Noah Lennox — vocalized into a microphone drenched in reverb, echo and delay. The resulting sound mirrored the stunning sonics of Person Pitch with carefully calibrated, ultra-vivid fidelity — it was as if Panda Bear had caught lightning in a bottle and was slowly letting it out.

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