Panda Bear and “Buoys”

Every four years or so, we have the privilege of a new album by Animal Collective’s quietest and most introverted member, Mr. Noah Lennox. Lennox has chosen to work under his Panda Bear moniker for as early as 1998, and he’s built an impressive catalog for himself besides his main gig. His 2007 release, “Person Pitch” is, to this date, his best and most easygoing record, but he might’ve just crafted his second best effort behind that one on this year’s “Buoys”.

“Buoys” is the first Panda Bear record since Animal Collective’s poppier but ultimately unfulfilling 2016 effort “Painting With”, but somehow Lennox has managed to capture lightning in a bottle, working once again with old AnCo producer Rusty Santos, who’s recent work on Spanish trap productions has lent “Buoys” a more focused, skeletal demeanor.

A Perfect Storyline

The album opens with a pensive, beautiful track called “Dolphin”, built around a strumming pattern on an acoustic guitar and a couple of water drops that serve as the song’s percussive element, and the reflective nature of the record is announced from the get-go, only to be smashed by the dramatic and eerie “Cranked”, which uses delay and reverb as if they were just another instrument.

But where “Buoys” really stand out is in its peaks. Early highlight “Token”, the mesmerizing title track and the dramatic “Inner Monologue” all lend a helping hand in creating tension around a record that seems to be so centered on balancing out an atmosphere, and maybe this is what was missing from recent Animal Collective projects. At their best, they’re focused in making a widescreen space and sonic ambience you can live in and create a strong emotional attachment, due to the many beautiful melodies and textures, but their recent output has been mostly concentrated in making nervous, jittery pieces of psychedelic pop that offer diminishing returns with every subsequent listen and aesthetic tics that the group tries on as if they were a new costume. Fortunately, this record is a step for the better.

Taking Risks

Focusing on the weak links on the record, such as the wandering turbulence of “Master” or the dissonant, very satisfying ending of “Home Free”, is probably one of the main reasons this record could be stripped of its merits, but it is surely one that rewards with repeated listens, and sounds like a mantra on every new repetition, almost as if Mr. Lennox wrote and recorded the songs as a way of meditating and chanting his worries away. As he puts it out on the opening track “and I’ll always be there when you need it”, Mr. Lennox does not let up on creating unequivocally original and interesting art, even if at times the cost can be that of permanence or relevance in the new trends of the ever-changing music industry world. He can most definitely rest assured that although “Buoys” may not give him a horde of new fans, it will probably only carry on his legacy to become of the most important electronic and experimental artists of the new millennia.