Panda Bear Meets the
Multi-instrumentalist and producer Noah Lennox aka Panda Bear has always displayed a diverse and playful style throughout his wondrous solo career and at the helm of the critically adored contemporary experimental band Animal Collective.
His sonic explorations have been the musical equivalent of a candy store pic’n’mix, sweet and fruity treats scattered among plenty of take-’em-or-leave-’em tunes. Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper is cut from the same cloth, but sadly this time around Lennox has forgotten to throw in the tunes.
Opener Sequential Circuits is just one of the many dull multi-layered psychedelic landscapes that lack direction. The introspective lyrics are almost unintelligible throughout the album – even on the drumdriven Mr Noah, the album’s brightest spark – and they do nothing to take the attention away from the droning, repetitive beats and over-looped samples. There are some nice breezy melodies (Principe Real, Tropic of Cancer), but the lack of emotion in the harmonies and the low vocal mix makes Lennox sound lazy and disinterested.
Far better known across Europe than in their native Britain, London electronic beat collective Archive continue to move further from their dark trip-hop origins on their 10th album, Restriction.
After nearly two decades spent hanging around the outskirts of the mainstream, you'd certainly forgive founding members Darius Keeler and Danny Griffiths if they sounded a little downbeat by now, but things kick off here in high psych-electro spirits. Energised opening track Feel It, all shuffling hi-hat and shards of frenetic garage rock, is quickly followed by the sinister breakbeat of the title track, layers of fuzz guitar and synth building over a repeated vocal line. The dark electronic rhythms and aggressive beats continue with the fabulous Kid Corner, before the pace finally slows and the album begins to get lost in tender piano-led atmospheric meanderings.
The propulsive beats lend more cohesion than you'd expect to an album featuring multiple singers, with soulful vocalist Holly Martin the stand-out on the haunting torch song Black and Blue. Enough to keep a loyal fan base happy.
Justin Townes Earle
The sixth album from alt-country musician Justin Townes Earle, Absent Fathers follows closely on the heels of the Nashville native's critically acclaimed Single Mothers, its companion piece released four months earlier. Recorded at the same time with a purposefully simple rhythm section, each record of the proposed double album slowly took on its own deeply confessional identity, as Earle, the son of country rocker Steve Earle, laid bare his familial woes.
While the mood of the music may be light, mid-tempo Americana, the lyrics and subject matter are of a darker mood, as the former heroin addict deals with his abandonment by his father before welcoming a brighter future of contentment. The album opens with the gorgeous pedal steel of Farther From Me, with some harsh words for his dad: "I suffered for your foolish heart and your desperate needs/ Now after all this time you're still slipping farther from me."
Absent Fathers wears its heartache on its sleeve, even the upbeat blues groove of Someone Will Pay failing to detract from the wallow of mournful honesty.