Panda Bear - Person Pitch

It would be tempting to see this album as something of a stopgap – something to tide us over till the main event. But that would be a mistake – Person Pitch is a cracking album in its own right.

Panda Bear – Person Pitch


Panda Bear is (appropriately enough) one part of Animal Collective and this is the follow up to his debut album Young Prayer. His first album, written in memory of his father, was perfectly fine but Person Pitch – well, this is a quantum leap forwards. It's an absolute bobby dazzler.


Now, in the past I've lambasted reviewers who've lazily name checked The Beach Boys every time a band sings something in harmony. Even I, however, can't complain when such allusions are made to Person Pitch. From the opening track Comfy in Nautica such comparisons are inevitable. Not that the song starts like a Beach Boys track. It opens with the sound of chains clinking, a drum pounding and handclaps. But when Panda Bear starts singing "I'll try to remember always, just to have a good time," the combination of the naivety of the lyrics and the boyish voice bring Brian Wilson straight to mind. There's always been a naïve aspect to Animal Collective and perhaps it is embodied most of all in Panda Bear. I mean, just take his name for a start...


Comfy in Nautica has obvious echoes of Animal Collective. The drumming is basic and almost African. The harmonies are sweet. But there's also a distance too. Take Pills starts off with random noises (the loops of someone walking upstairs?) and then, just to make sure that every review will mention the Beach Boys, uses a short snippet off Pet Sounds as a sample. Over the loops Panda Bear sings indistinctly. Just when you wonder where the song is going it changes track and becomes much more of a good old sing song. It's not a pop song by any means, but it bounces along and once again the singing reminds one of the sixties. Panda Bear duets with himself, singing slightly out of time so the words ("take one day at a time") echo around the chugging beat. And then the song stops and is replaced by a train leaving a station.


Bros could, I suppose, refer to the band of the same name but it seems unlikely. Panda Bear's voice echoes over a simple rhythm and some shimmering effects. He has a great voice, ranging from strong and deep to high and childlike. As with Take Pills the singing here reminds me of sixties bands but not specifically the Beach Boys. There is a reaching, hoping aspect to it that suggests someone striving for happiness. It is definitely not faux naïf – instead there is the genuine joyfulness that one finds with Animal Collective. Bros steadily builds and builds over its twelve minute running time. Drums pound and guitars riff away. His voice is played with and manipulated. Treated piano joins in and all the time the beat keeps going. It's utterly brilliant.


Im Not (sic) opens with manipulated choral singing. Mucked about with voices flit around a simple drumbeat. Good Girl / Carrots opens urgently with a sample that I can't put my finger on. Panda's treated voice, electronic squiggles, screams and the sound of thunderstorms augment the looped beat. The drumming sounds Indian at points and all sorts of effects are layered over it. Just as the song appears to heading up a dead end with the drums and effects getting ever more insistent so the song quickly changes and is dominated by a steady beat, some piano and Panda's singing. Then the song breaks down again momentarily before continuing along its merry way. And then it turns into a dubby children's song.


Search For Delicious features sampled voices, scraping and clunks. The brief Ponytail rounds things off by returning to the Beach Boys-esque vocals of the opening tracks. A gentle song backed by piano and a bit of a beat, it is the closest track to the miniatures found on Young Prayer.


Person Pitch is by no means a 'pop' album with simple songs and structures. There are beautiful moments however, and some really great propulsive wig outs. There are also lots of effects and manipulation and mucking about. But these never overload the songs or get in the way.


A new Animal Collective album should be with us (via Domino) at some point in the summer. It would be tempting to see this album as something of a stopgap – something to tide us over till the main event. But that would be a mistake – Person Pitch is a cracking album in its own right. It is clearly the work of the one of the Animal Collective but it is not a diluted version of their sound. Rather it takes certain aspects of it and pushes them in new directions. It's a great album.


Words: Chris Dawson.