One of the things that makes discovering new music fun is that you can sometimes find reinventions of things you loved in the past. In the case of Noah Lennox aka Panda Bear, it was a chance to reflect on the music of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys.
I have to admit that I was never a serious fan of the Beach Boys, but I did own a copy of Pet Sounds and appreciated the experimentation and beauty of the band’s harmonies. The Beach Boys always invoked the spirit of summer and the low key vibe that comes with warm weather and the beach.
This is where Panda Bear comes in. Panda Bear is Noah Lennox, founder of the Animal Collective. Lennox grew up listening to Aphex Twin and other newly emerging IDM artists, so when he took sounds and textures from 60’s era songs and crafted the musical environment of Person Pitch, it was like hearing something warm and familiar like a post industrial electronic version of the Beach Boys. Lennox even manages to make the clanking of railroad cars sound warm in the ‘Take Pills’ (see below).
The album is filled with moments where Lennox sounds like Brian Wilson. His voice floats over loops, found sounds and samples effortlessly – sometimes blending into them. Its very much in the spirit of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, but with samples. Person Pitch was Panda Bear’s third and second critically acclaimed album, marking a shift from previous work.
Lennox had just moved to Spain from New York. The move not only changed his sound, but his approach to recording. Person Pitch is basically a series of orchestrated samples, with Lennox (a one man band) singing over top warm melodies. His voice is reverbed in a way reminiscent of the warm echo sometimes associated with ‘Good Vibrations’. It was not unusual to see the album ranked high or at the top of the best of lists for 2007.
The Beach Boys would not be the albums only inspiration. Nearly other 100 artist were cited as influences in the liner notes. It can be assumed that the samples may have been gathered from artist on this list, but only 15 sources are listed in the song credits.
Much of the album was released in some form or another as 12′ singles before the actual release of Person Pitch, building anticipation for the album itself. Although none of the tracks made it to the pop charts proper, the album dominated college charts and playlists.
Person Pitch remains the warmest sounding electronic album I’ve ever heard in part because Noah Lennox vast catalog of samples and sound textures are so organic to start with. This is one surprising electronic album that certainly transcends the genre and has an appeal that spans generational divisions.