Panda Bear review – spine-tingling beauty from a sonic sorcerer

Electric Brixton, London
The singular Noah Lennox proves his voice is as hypnotic as his songwriting

You can never be certain with such things, but it seems likely that this is the first time Electric Brixton has played host to an artist sampling Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker to deliver a tender, harp-led ballad about terminal cancer.

Panda Bear, AKA Noah Lennox, has always been the most singular of artists – not that you’d know it as he ambles on to the unadorned stage in a baggy grey jumper. “How’s it going everybody? I hope you have a good show,” he mumbles. It’s the only thing he’ll say until the end. But he transforms as he stands in front of a small table of gear, coloured wires running off in every direction.

From the moment Boys Latin hits, Lennox begins stitching a sonic patchwork together, as bewildering visuals of cavorting naked aliens play on a large screen behind him. There’s a litheness and grace in the way each song moves into the next, and the result is entrancing. Crosswords is a bouncing Beach Boys-style song for the 21st century, while the closing coda of the more visceral Selfish Gene – “You’ll trip up again” – is unexpectedly joyful.

In fact, for an album centred on the ever-uplifting themes of mortality, disease and change, Lennox’s latest album of squelching electronic psychedelia – Panda Bear meets the Grim Reaper – is surprisingly euphoric, even if tonight’s show is less about kinetic rhythms and more a hazy form of hypnosis. Lennox is not a dance musician so much as a singer-songwriter who happens to have swapped his acoustic guitar for a box of electronic tricks, and then filtered these intimate sounds through echo, reverb and gurgling beats. Despite the sonic sorcery, his voice remains his secret weapon. When Come to Your Senses morphs into the Nutcracker-sampling Tropic of Cancer and he sings “You can’t come back / you won’t come back”, it cuts through the room. It is a moment of spine-tingling beauty.


Danny Wright

The GuardianTramp

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