Panda Bear: Buoys review – indie experimenter finds the slow lane

(Domino Recordings)

Noah Lennox, whether on his own as Panda Bear or with his Brooklyn band Animal Collective, has a knack for meshing lustrous electronics into densely textured, hallucinatory scenerios, aided by his brightly lit, boyish coo. The latter’s seminal album Merriweather Post Pavilion turns 10 this year and was an epic feat of indie experimentalism that hasn’t, wrote Pitchfork recently, been surpassed.

No doubt that anniversary was at the back of Lennox’s mind when he made Buoys. His sixth solo album is remarkably more muted than his previous work. Lead single Token and its Lemon Jelly-like sampledelia throws back to Merriweather, a spiritual successor to the joyful rush of My Girls, but otherwise Buoys offers a sort of deconstructed R&B that focuses on repetition and restraint.

In places it’s undeniably clever, the playful production peacockery – with Rusty Santos, who worked on Person Pitch, Panda Bear’s precursor to Merriweather – suggesting futuristic electronic auteurs Sophie or Oneohtrix Point Never. I Know I Don’t Know, for example, is like watching a deranged western with holes in the celluloid; the quasi-Balearic tune Dolphin pleasingly turns a splish-splosh of water into the beat and courts continued comparisons to the Beach Boys.

But unless you find Panda Bear’s quirks endlessly endearing, such innovations can sound irksome. The propulsive strumming, which spurts through many of the tracks, is defiantly monotonous. Lennox’s coo has never sounded better than on Master but its unrelentingly dull pace tugs it down. And then there is Inner Monologue, a breathy woman’s orgasm noise as Lennox intones “one to one” over and over, until we get the point.

Buoys is anchored by form but ultimately that is what holds it back. After all, they are also allowed to drift …


Kate Hutchinson

The GuardianTramp

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