Kode9 and Kurt VileEdit this event
Ah, comeback showcases... what funny things they are. Should one criticize Panda Bear for his slender set at Heaven last week? Or does nine new songs plus Person Pitch‘s ‘I’m Not’ sound about right? One thing’s for sure: Noah Lennox isn’t a natural performer, spending the night withdrawn and awkward behind his sampler and guitar, the music literally left to do the talking.
His stage presence wasn’t the only awkward thing. Poor Kurt Vile was put out to pasture in a 7.30-8pm slot (by all accounts considerably more entertaining than the traffic yr humble reviewer was trapped in), following which we got an hour or so (longer than Panda) of Kode9 attempting to see just how loud he could get Heaven’s very loud soundsystem to go (answer: loud). It was a nice idea, and some objectively good music came roaring through the mix, but while a rump of trainspotters clearly had a decent time motionlessly staring at Hyperdub’s commander in chief, it was a rather alienating experience on the whole.
By the same token, Panda’s opening track ‘Drone’ wasn’t the most reassuring way of saying ‘I’m back!’, being, in essence, four minutes of very loud bass drone (duh), which finally sped up and faded and possibly hinted at something more interesting as it ended. Given the lad has proven himself Not A Bad Songwriter in the past, I’d guess the track is a mood piece of sort, possibly the opener to the impending Tomboy album, and will make more sense there.
Next up and ‘Tomboy’ itself was instantly more accessible, hazy of riff and poppy in that sort of diffuse way Panda is at his most open. Again, it’s hard to really get a measure of the new songs when cranked up so loud (though I assume this was intentional), but guitar and big, hip hoppish bottom end beats would seem to be Tomboy’s hallmark. Best so far was ‘Surfer’s Hymn’, which rode in on a rippling, slot-machine like sample that Panda progressively distorted and warped until it unexpectedly coalesced into a Proper Dance Beat, his yearning vocal so heavy on reverb it took on an almost choral quality. A bass-enhanced but slightly unconvincing ‘I’m Not’ provided our one dose of The Hits, followed by the elegiac synths of ‘Last Night at the Jetty’, which was chiefly notable for the odd sound of Panda pulling a falsetto out of those already soaring tones. ‘Benifica’s squelchily baked synths had a very mid-album Merriweather Post Pavilion feel... and then I have to confess that I was taking notes on my phone, which died around this point, which is sort of shame as the concluding section was easily the best straight run of the new material. ‘Slow Motion’ seemed to defy its name so much that I suspect I may have the name confused, pounding along on housey keys that ushered in a much more overtly dancey end section to the evening that would doubtless have the room moving on a different night. The final ‘You Can Count On Me’ was particularly impressive... certainly it had the room geed up for an encore that never came.
Er, so there you have it, a few details about the new songs, as showcased live. Was it actually a good gig? Not particularly, at least in conventional terms – the Tomboy tracks showed promise but as performed on the evening there were no obvious earworms, and though Panda had some neat projections, there was little compensation either in the way of stagecraft, or him throwing out familiar bones. Then again, nobody was expecting Don’t Look Back Person Pitch; it was a showcase for Tomboy, and it did the job okay, not brilliantly. It seems unlikely anybody left not hoping for more, both from the record itself, and his upcoming festival dates.
Photo taken at ATP NY by Abbey Braden
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