While I adore Panda Bear's work in the Animal Collective, I just never warmed up to "Young Prayer." It was too simple, too meandering.
Fortunately the same is not true of the follow-up, "Person Pitch," which adds some extra sonic dimension to Panda Bear's strange melodies. Where once his music was spare and almost painfully lo-fi, now it's a shimmering, bizarre, otherworldly extravaganza, like a hazy-eyed circus.
It opens with a rattling, fluttering noise, like a kitchen appliance right before it dies. It gets joined in by the sound of marching, a lion roaring, and voices raised in wordless song. It sounds like a happy, cheerful revolution.
Over those sounds, Panda Bear sings rather distantly, "Try to tell me how to do it/only because I'm new to here/coolness is having courage/courage to do what's right/I'll try to remember always/just to have a good time/good time good time good time..."
The songs that follow are much the same -- stately tambourine pop, an acoustic indiepop number that sounds like it was played underwater, swirling cacophonies, shimmering vocal pop, tribal beats, ethereal ambient stuff, and finally the soft, unsure, shimmering "Ponytail" with its distant vocals.
And he sprinkles it with plenty of other stuff -- sirens, bubbling water, descending planes, owls hooting, and basically whatever odd, appropriate sounds work in these songs. Perhaps the main problem is that it's full of double songs that would have worked better if they had been cut into separate tracks.
But it shows that Panda Bear is adept at swirling, bizarrely otherworldly music. The music here is more ethereal and less earthy than his Animal Collective work -- rather than a crazy acid trip or a tribal party (although we do get some wild tribal beats), this music sounds like a gentle dream of peace and shimmering skies.
Instead of the acoustic stuff of "Young Prayer," we have wild painting of samplers, keyboard, shimmering synth, bittersweet ambience, and occasionally a bit of sprightly guitar pop. Sometimes it sounds like a mess, yet somehow it swirls together into an exquisite pop tapestry.
And it has some lovely lyrics too: "When my soul starts glowing/when my soul starts growing/I am as I want to be/and I know I never will stop growing." Panda Bear's voice is a sweet, subdued one, which he uses as an instrument as often as he actually sings -- he becomes a part of the warm, dreamlike sound.
Beautiful and airy, "Person Pitch" is a complete 180 from his previous solo work. But that is only for the best -- an exquisite little sonic gem.