By Aidan Connelly
Exactly who the hell is Panda Bear? This brainchild of Noah Lennox–a member of the highly acclaimed neo-psychadelic pop outfit Animal Collective–has earned him a solo career just as admirable as his group work. Most recently, he co-wrote the song “Doin’ it Right,” a standout off Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, which won Album of the Year at the Grammys this past March. But seeing him at the Paradise Rock Club this past Friday, you’d never guess he was more than what he appeared to be: a guy in a wolf t-shirt standing alone behind a console, while psychedelic footage flashed behind him. The only time he spoke or interacted with the audience was to thank them at the end of the night, to cheers that proved his onstage quirks were nothing but endearing.
Whatever charisma Lennox lacked in stage presence was made up for in his swirling, sometimes chaotic and often hypnotic music. The songs, about half of which were unreleased, morphed from one to the next, not unlike the lips projected behind him. Every so often the music would fall into a drone, only to be interrupted by a new rhythm, signaling the beginning of a new song.
Lennox’s singing voice sounds kind of alien; his reverb-soaked tenor cuts above the music, washed out by harmony while still managing to feel pointed. His timbre, along with the often intricate melodies of the songs, only perpetuated the unorthodox feel of Panda Bear’s music. The only drawback to this came during moments when the reverb was turned low, which felt out of place–like watching the Wizard of Oz work from behind the curtain.
Friday night’s show was consistently entertaining; Panda Bear’s unique songwriting was enough to keep things from ever feeling dull. The show didn’t reach its peak, however, until the last of song of the night: “Surfer’s Hymn,” off of 2011’s Tomboy. Through the jubilation of that track, with its twinkling chimes and progressive pulse, Panda Bear was able to pull off performing music that felt truly thrilling. And while yes, it did make the rest of the night seem a bit more flatlined in comparison, there was something admirable about the gusto put forward by the only person standing still the entire night.