Panda Bear, aka Noah Lennox, after finding initial success as a member of Animal Collective, has become known for his own brand of warped yet highly infectious pop since the breakthrough 2011 solo album Tomboy. Now settled with a young family in Lisbon, his latest album, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, sees Lennox mellow out and bring his style to maturity in the process.
Electric Brixton marked the first Panda Bear show of the year, and the commencement of a short European tour, giving a relaxed and assured performance of songs mostly drawn from Panda Bear Meets and the Mr Noah EP released in late 2014. Kicking off with single ‘Boys Latin’, with murky synthesisers evoking creatures emerging from a swamp, Lennox drew us into his feverish pyschedelia.
After the skewed rock’n’roll of ‘This Side of Paradise’, and the seductive shape-shifting synths of ‘Sequential Circuits’, in ‘Come to Your Senses’, he implored of us “Are you mad?” against a backdrop of shuffling electro. By this point, it felt as if we had been transported to a hallucinatory parallel universe, especially since the whole performance was accompanied by kaleidoscopic live visuals.
With his new album surprisingly tender for a record meditating on mortality and death, the performance was full of heartfelt moments. ‘Tropic of Cancer’ was a delicate lullaby that samples both the Last Post theme and Nutcracker suite, and ‘Acid Wash’, closing the main set, an emotional triumphant singalong.
Compared to the barely controlled madness of Animal Collective and his 2007 solo album Person Pitch, the show felt very safe, perhaps to a fault. Assured and mature pop it may be, but Lennox’s new material also seems less inventive and endlessly surprising than Tomboy. The encore of ‘Alsatian Darn’, ‘Sheherezade’ and ‘Surfer’s Hymn’ served as a reminder of that album’s elegance and brilliance.
Support was provided by Jib Kidder, the moniker of Louisiana-by-way-of-Brooklyn artist Sean Schuster-Craig. In his first performance with a new band, Schuster-Craig’s mischievous and absurdist music were accompanied by a series of viral video collages. Post-punk for the internet generation, Jib Kidder may be zeitgeisty, but their uncompromising surrealism was engaging and inventive.