Published Jan 09, 2015Make no mistake: neither critics, fans, followers or the group themselves seemed overly impressed with Animal Collective's last LP, 2012's Centipede Hz. The album promised a bold back-to-basics approach, but simply delivered the same old sounds found on Feels and Strawberry Jam before it. That's why Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear) was nervous when he found himself falling back into old habits while preparing for his next solo endeavour as he toyed increasingly with the sampler he had all but done away with.
Although seemingly counterintuitive, Lennox decided to look at the past — both in the broader world of music and his own solo experiments — to help rewrite his future and find inspiration for what would become his new album, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper. The results are startling.
His fifth album alone is both a return to the Panda Bear sound of old and a departure into uncharted sonic territories; the wet and watery production is back and at an all time high, and the beats are deeply rooted in hip-hop and modern electronic music's not so distant past (Lennox says some of the percussion on the album is directly lifted from his favourite breaks as a youth). By immersing himself even deeper into the world of dub music and its equally minimalist and maximalist tones and tropes, Grim Reaper sounds stronger than anything he's accomplished so far.
"Mr Noah" is definitely the highlight of the album, what with its hypnotic big beat rhythm and warbling melody, but tracks like the downtempo and dark "Boys Latin," mellifluous yet mournful "Tropic of Cancer" (complete with lifted "Last Post" opener) and spiralling sea shanty "Acid Wash" showcase the pure breadth of his beat-making, his ear for expansive and deeply resonating melodies and his lyrics, which urge you to not go so gently into that good night. (Domino)