In the Studio: Panda Bear on the Tentatively Titled "Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper" | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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In the Studio: Panda Bear on the Tentatively Titled “Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper”

Busy Being Born

Mar 18, 2014 Issue #49 - February/March 2014 - Portlandia Bookmark and Share


Nirvana, Frank Sinatra, J Dillathose were the three artists Noah Lennox named as the main influences for his fourth full-length solo album, 2011's Tomboy. Of course, if you could hear any of those three acts in that album's stripped-down blend of blissed-out psychedelic pop and drone/dub production techniques, you were probably listening to a different album or under the influence of heavy pharmaceuticals. Only when you consider that Lennox was attempting to remake his sound as something more visceral, immediate, and directlargely built around simple guitars, heavy rhythms, and swooning vocals and not the densely layered samples that defined 2007's now-canonized Person Pitchdoes the comparison make much sense. With the tentatively-titled Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, Lennox says he is celebrating a personal and creative rebirth of sorts, turning back toward sample-based songcraft with a new central influence in the mix.

"A big one is this guy called 9th Wonder," Lennox says of the acclaimed North Carolina beat-maker, "and he's made a whole lot of what I guess are called 'beat tapes' or instrumental versions of hip-hop tracks, or usually there's MCs on them on the official release. The ones that I really like are when he puts out instrumental versions of these songs, and there was a streak he had 10 years ago or so, and it feels like he has changed his style a bit over the last five years or so. But there was a streak there where it felt like he was u sing samples from gospel tracks or soul tracks. There were a lot of voices.... Sort of like how I feel like anyone who would listen to Tomboy, it's tough to trace a Nirvana influence in the music, I feel like that will be a similar thing here."

That said, Lennox describes the new tracks (of which only two had been completed at the time of the interview) as "break-centric" and constructed out of samples of self-made sounds rather than other people's work, lending the album a more "hectic, overloaded" feeling than the 9th Wonder material he used as inspiration. Working with producer and former Spacemen 3 member Pete "Sonic Boom" Kember for the second time, Lennox has put away the samplers he used on Person Pitch and Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion in favor of equipment that has pushed him out of old habits and toward new ways of thinking about his arrangements. Lyrically, too, Lennox has shifted away from the inward-looking, existential themes that dominated his previous work to an examination of human relationships and the changes they undergo over time. Far from being a morose statement of impending death, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper is meant as a celebration of the fact that new growth sometimes requires death.

"It goes back to thinking a lot about changes that happen with people and in people's lives, how a real intense change on some level is a kind of death," he says with a mischievous laugh. "But I don't really mean it in a negative way."

[Note: This article first appeared in the February/March print issue (Issue 49). Click here to read a bonus Q&A with Panda Bear about his new album. Keep in mind that the album is still a work in progress and the details and direction of the album may have changed since this interview; consider this a snapshot of the album's recording process.]



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