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‘Mr Noah’ a Sign of What’s to Come

| Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mr Noah WEBMary McGraw | The Observer
Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox, who records under the name of Panda Bear, has been relatively silent for most of 2014. Lennox is one of the most prolific and critically-acclaimed artists of the past decade — but besides a mixtape in September, he’s been all but missing since his scene-stealing appearance on Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” in 2013.

That changed last Thursday, when Lennox released the four-song “Mr Noah” EP. The EP previews the release of his fifth studio album, “Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper,” which is due out Jan. 13, 2015 via Domino. Produced by former Spaceman 3 member Peter “Sonic Boom” Kember, the EP is sonically reminiscent of 2007’s fantastic “Person Pitch,” with its psychedelic samples and dreamy melodies. It suggests “Grim Reaper” will feature an expansive sound, paired with Lennox’s most direct and accessible melodies to date.

“I often feel like I’m climbing up a mountain to get to the top, but lately, instead of looking up towards the place, I’m looking down,” Lennox told Pitchfork. “That feeling is central to this record.” This contemplative, sometimes morbid, strain is present throughout the EP and its often ambiguous lyrics.

“Mr Noah,” which also serves as the first single off “Grim Reaper,” is the clear standout. It’s an absolute jam, and features Lennox singing with chant-like vocals that will continue the inevitable comparisons of him to Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. The song is also more percussive than most of Panda Bear’s past work, and it is a welcome sonic evolution. The lyrics, “This dog got bit on a leg / He got a really big chip on a leg,”  only add to the song’s delightful cacophony.

The track’s music video, directed by French curatorial collective AB/CD/CD, is equally entrancing. The camera tilts and turns as it works its way through an apartment building and the alley below, with a cameo from the aforementioned dog. Like Lennox’s best work, it is fantastically disorienting.

The EP’s other three tracks are intriguing, if none quite as far-reaching as the dizzying heights of “Mr Noah.” “Untying the Knot” comes the closest, with its faux-Oriental strings and looped vocals. It is hypnotic, with its repeated lyric eventually becoming transcendent: “There is a sound if you listen in to it.” It is a mantra that could very well be applied to much of Lennox’s music — it requires and rewards your full listening attention.

“Faces in the Crowd” is the most characteristically Panda Bear of the four songs. Its buoyant synth line and an assortment of otherworldly samples will be reassuring for long-time Animal Collective fans. “To my guy ’til I die,” Lennox sings repeatedly in the introduction, bringing to mind the Grim Reaper references. That slightly ominous sentiment is repeated in “This Side of Paradise,” which is perhaps the weakest of the four. The track finds Lennox feeling “like a sinking ship on the ocean,” but it also sounds like an unfinished demo.

While “Mr Noah” is not necessarily an essential release in Lennox’s discography, it is a promising preview of what’s to come from his full-length in January. Panda Bear is ready to meet the Grim Reaper — are we?

3.5/5 shamrocks

reccommended tracks: “Mr. Noah,” “Untying the Knot”

similar artists: Animal Collective, Brian Wilson, Atlas Sound

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About Matthew Munhall

Matthew thinks everyone should listen to Charly Bliss.

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