Journey With A Panda Bear

Take a second to pause in your planar reality, and step with me into the prism that is Panda Bear. If we could go back to 1967 and bottle the moments the magic paper stoked Lennon’s madness to utterances such as “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together,” those moments might feel much like a Panda Bear experience: a peacefully noisy, busy, bustling economy of carnivalesque sounds and vibrations marching to a psychedelic tribal rhythm. His music has an echoing resonance that rings a bit like a Beach Boys party choir with more whimsical melodies and ambient effects, and his lyrics spell cryptic perspectives of life around us with almost Dr. Seuss-like composition and delivery. What we’re left with is an experimental alternative sound that teeters between meditation space music and indie rock, and a Panda playing the sage to our journey. 

If you dig vibrations off the beaten path, Noah Benjamin Lennox, AKA Panda Bear, is definitely the dude for you. He released his debut solo album, Panda Bear, in 1999, followed by Young Prayer in 2004 and Person Pitch in 2007. But Panda Bear isn’t Lennox’s only squeeze: he’s a founding member of Animal Collective, one of the most off-the-wall entertaining and most prolific rock bands still touring today. Lennox has produced nine albums with them between 2000 and 2012, making him the busiest and most entertaining Panda on the planet. He’s about to pop on another, Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper, which you can catch a sample of by scrolling down on the homepage of his website. Until his dance with death finds the light of day, his latest release, Tomboy (2011), should give you enough awesome to chew on before Midpoint. 

The first track of the album, You Can Count On Me, floats us into a hypnotic dream state to start our journey, with Lennox’s voice playing a siren guiding us to the rocks of his funhouse. This song is all about letting you know that he’ll just get so up for it (we’re still waiting to find out what “it” is), and that he’s got your back on this crazy ride. The harmony in the second track, Tomboy, almost sounds similar to Tuvan throat singing, like a Willy Wonka boat ride on an electronic Beatles voyage to the peace lands. The song is a reflection of the moment we’re about to reach those lands, making us question the realness of our personal circumstances and opening us up for the unknown meanderings ahead. 

The third tune on the album, Slow Motion, is our first step into awareness with the Panda. He talks about how they say that practice makes perfect, and that we should all eat an apple a day, and that they can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but the most important thing that’s being said in all of that is all of the things that aren’t being said. It breaks waves into all our own personal lives as a commentary about getting caught up face value, and losing our balance to see what’s real versus what might be perceived as real, everywhere we go.

I could go into crazed details about the rabbit hole that is the rest of the album, but then again that would just be another something that they said for you to consider everything that wasn’t said. And so, it’s up to you to fill in the moments between these moments. Catch Panda Bear live and in the fur at Midpoint Music Festival’s Moerlein Stage at 9:30pm on Thursday night. Go in with open ears and an open mind, and the Panda will be your sherpa guide through whatever dream reality it is you create with him.