Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox hypnotizes with latest solo album

Amber Faigin
Staff Writer

On April 14, Panda Bear of Animal Collective — otherwise known as Noah Lennox — released his fourth solo album, entitled “Tomboy,” featuring what his fans have come to expect and appreciate: a loose and experimental sound.

Without the usual band members’ accompaniment, such as Geologist’s (Brian Weitz) repetitive hooks and Avey Tare’s (David Portner) conversational lyrics to add structure and spine, Panda Bear wanders through an ethereal and organic maze. He never loops back on the same hook twice, creating a sound that is abstract and primitive, while at the same time friendly and familiar. As his lyrics drift aimlessly, the vocals become a new synthetic instrument, weaving into the fabric of the music.

The opening track, “You Can Count on Me,” starts with the echo of a singular, haunting voice, and immediately rushes into a familiar repetition, plunging the listener into a trance. The song gradually fills with digital instrumentals, orchestral hums and claps, reminiscent of the Animal Collective album, Feels. Strange voices whisper, mutter and laugh underneath a tune not quite melodic. As the music meets the ear, the experience becomes surreal.

The fifth track, “Last Night At the Jetty,” draws influences from the Beach Boys, as Panda Bear uses his own voice to develop harmonies that interact with each other in a playful melody. His honey-sweet vocals shift between tribal chanting and sweet droning, fluctuating from melancholy to friendly.

In “Alsatian Darn,” physical instruments with wooden rattles and distorted guitar riffs fade in and out of ambient electronica. Pips, squeaks and mutters poke to the surface but never quite become a voice of their own. Instead, the song breaks into a chorus that is atmospheric, as if in a cathedral, and exalted, reminiscent of many tracks on “Merriweather Post Pavilion.” The music has a hook and sway that is welcoming and familiar.

The second to last track, “Afterburner,” moves casually through a rhythmic jam without direction or conformity, bouncing between a collection of dramatic sequences and voices. The song falls into a comfortable groove, never becoming stale or committing to a hook.

“Tomboy” wanders around the edges of consciousness, never settling long enough to be fully grasped; the dedicated listener will inevitably fall into a dream-state. Much more a private experience than a pop piece, the album exaggerates complex layers of exploratory sounds, leaving the listener much to discover with each visit.

This article appeared in the May 2011 print edition of The Raven Review.
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