Panda Bear – review

Electric Ballroom, London

There are vicious crackles from the speakers, weird jolts of volume, and then, in the final song, the soundsystem shrieks and snaps off altogether. For most bands, such irregularities might be disastrous. With Panda Bear, aka Noah Lennox, they are simply absorbed into the sonic maelstrom: indeed, until that unexpected silence, it's not clear whether the effects are accidental or deliberate.

Much of Lennox's show sits on that fault line between control and chaos. The presentation is precise: he starts at the beginning of his latest album, Tomboy, plays the songs in order, and when he returns for the encore he starts at the beginning of Tomboy's predecessor, Person Pitch. His voice is impeccable as well: pure as a choirboy's for the liturgical chants of You Can Count on Me and Scheherazade.

There is precision, too, in the rhythms, the subtle shift from tension to relief in Afterburner, the dub thunderbolts and throbbing basslines that give each song structure. Within that architecture, however, is limitless cacophony: an ice storm billows through Tomboy, lightning squalls in Alsatian Darn. Much of this tempest is created not by Lennox, but his on-stage partner, Sonic Boom, who spent the 1980s and 90s manipulating sound with Spacemen 3 and Spectrum, and does it now with unimpeachable authority and gleeful violence.

Caught in the onslaught, both from Sonic Boom and the lighting designer, who shrouds the stage in swirling psychedelic patterns and clouds of dry ice, Lennox seems unbearably vulnerable, a boyish figure with eyes scrunched tight, singing to keep the demons at bay.


Maddy Costa

The GuardianTramp

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