Recorded at his studio in Lisbon, "Tomboy" sees Panda Bear, aka Noah Lennox, stepping away from the sample-based parameters of his previous record and incorporating more guitar and synthesiser. Still prevalent though, is the interest in texture that made "Person Pitch" such a dense record; crashing waves and cheering crowds bounce against the gurgling arpeggios and give the tracks an immense sense of space. Soaked in reverb and punctuated with inflections of delay, the album’s drums reveal a dub influence which gives them a visceral punch that lingers after each hit. Lennox’s lofty, self-harmonising vocals smooth out the songs, and Sonic Boom’s mixing gives the work a large dynamic range.
Through it all, Lennox has remained resilient in following his singular vision and voice. 'I’ve definitely traversed some kind of mind field the last year or so and it hasn’t always been pleasant or easy', Lennox says. 'But it’s been more a positive irritant than anything else'. "Tomboy" proves, above all else, that he’s risen to the challenge and surpassed (as well as sidestepped) all expectations. And in following up "Person Pitch", Panda Bear has again taken to releasing the album as a batch of separate singles first, for labels like Kompakt, Fat Cat, Paw Tracks, and Domino. 'Doing the singles helps me focus on every song and also helps me move along in the process'.
Also part of the process was moving past the gear that informed the dense sonic tapestries of "Person Pitch" and MPP: 'I got tired of the severe parameters of using samplers. Thinking about Nirvana and the White Stripes got me into the idea of doing something with a heavy focus on guitar and rhythm'. Favouring a darker, more-streamlined sound on "Tomboy", Lennox went for a more visceral and direct approach, though that rock tendency was offset by another old influence on Lennox: 'With regards to where I am with Tomboy, I’m definitely reliving middle school and all the Baltimore R&B radio we used to ingest'.
It lends itself to the paradox of the title itself. Lennox explains: 'A lot of the songs are about something that’s in conflict with itself, so the image of a ‘tomboy’ has become the overseeing figure as far as the group of songs go'. It might even exemplify the conflict of Panda Bear himself: underground and experimental in his approach to sound, he also strives to craft gorgeous pop for the widest audience possible. With "Tomboy", he’s attained his greatest balance between the two extremes yet.
Both as a member of Animal Collective and as solo artist, Panda Bear, Noah Lennox spent the aughts helping redefine the aesthetics and methodology of experimental and independent music. With work ranging from splayed but lyrical noise, florid acoustic arrangements, and guitar-centric psychedelia, he and his bandmates have covered a vast musical territory that blurs the line between pop and experimentalism.
You Can Count On Me
Last Night At The Jetty