Panda Bear Person Pitch(Paw Tracks) Buy it from Insound
What am I not getting? Can someone tell me why the industrial noise on this album is louder than the songs? Or why Noah Lennox and his crew are singing to an unseen crowd in some large room down the hall? Am I having some twisted Kafka-inspired dream in which I move through the corridors of a large building, peering into rooms, looking for the band that I hear just off in the distance?
Here's what bothers me most about Person Pitch: the songs that I can barely make out actually sound pretty good. In fact, I'd really like to HEAR them. But Lennox has different ideas. For some reason he feels the need to drown his wonderful melodies and pleasing harmonies in a soup of reverb, and then cracks handfuls of clatter on top like so many saltines. And so we have a product that some might call "ambient" or a "mood piece", or some other descriptor for a piece of music that people desperately want to but ultimately fail to make any emotional connection with.
How do you classify music that is simultaneously beautiful and emotionally distant? I can only come up with a compromise, which is to acknowledge both its merits and its faults. On the plus side of the ledger we have the aforementioned beauty; swirling melodies, layered harmonies and Wilsonian arrangements. Occasionally the record lapses into a hypnotic sublimity, like on I'm Not, where the looped vocals really do "set a mood" and manage to pull you in, resulting in a rare moment of engagement. Also, on the 12 minute centerpiece Bros, the repetitive, insistent rhythm recalls the best moments of Animal Collective. It's not easy to remain edgy and urgent for 12 whole minutes but Lennox pulls it off.
The negatives I've already outlined. At times the distance and the noise combine to make the music seem pointless as well as irritating, like on the opening to Take Pills, large sections of Good Girl/Carrots, and most of Search for Delicious. Again, I return to my opening question; what am I not getting? What is the point of recording a cd of beautiful music that hides behind a wall of racket and haze?
There's another issue. The beautiful melodies and harmonies don't actually go anywhere, they just kind of float in and out of earshot, failing to develop or do anything harmonically interesting. I understand, this is ambient music or hypnotic freak folk or whatever and it's doing what it's supposed to do - just be. Fair enough, as large portions of this record make for enjoyable listening and most fans partial to this kind of music, not minding the noise and still under the influence of potent narcotics, will have little to complain about. But I need to make a judgment as to its lasting value and its success as an artistic endeavor, and in the final analysis the beauty and bliss on Person Pitch is ephemeral, disengaged and sinking in a sea of indulgence.
I really believe there is a wonderful record lying at the bottom of this ocean of noise. Too bad Panda Bear wouldn't let us hear it.26 March, 2007 - 17:41 — Alan Shulman