The working relationship between Noah Lennox aka Panda Bear and producer/former Spaceman 3 member Peter Kember aka Sonic Boom goes all the way back to 2011’s Tomboy. Sonic Boom stepped in to mix that record, which then led to co-production credits on the Mr Noah EP and full-length Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper. Sonic Boom and Panda Bear’s aesthetic seems to mesh really well. Lennox makes music that has a static joy to it; like The Beach Boys with medicine head. Slightly off-kilter, sugary electro pop. Sonic Boom gives it all a buoyancy with both low end heft and shimmering production.
Reset is the first full-on collaboration between the two and it’s a joyous thing indeed. Crushing rhythms intertwine with Lennox’ angelic vocals and 60s pop melodies melt into the chromed-out, robotic production. Most of the tracks are based around sampled loops of tracks from the 50s and 60s, which makes complete sense. Panda Bear and Sonic Boom have made a nearly perfect piece of post-industrial electro sugar pop(yes, I just made that up.)
I always find it hard to describe Panda Bear to the uninitiated. “So you like the Beach Boys? And Brian Eno? What about trance music?” Those questions usually are followed up with a “Whaa?” It’s like outsider art wearing 60s pop clothing. Anyways, I think Sonic Boom just “gets” it. He knows how to wrangle Panda Bear’s magical “thing” and hones it in. Both Lennox and Kember share vocal duties throughout, and with the 50s and 60s pop loops there’s a very dreamy feel to the whole album. Like having headphones on with the radio set to the oldies station just as REM sleep begins.
“Gettin To The Point” is powered by an Eddie Cochran sample, and when Panda Bear’s vocals come in there’s almost a Steve Miller vibe and I’m here for it. Noah Lennox has an unmistakable voice. It cuts through the mix and you instantly lock into it. “Go On” has a garage rock heft to it(thanks to a solid Troggs sample.) The production here is impeccable, every finger snap and snare hit is bitingly crisp, and Panda Bear’s effervescent vocals hang in the air. Sonic Boom’s “give it to me” line is a nice counterpoint to Lennox.
The album has an otherworldly feel to it. The classic rock and roll samples gives it a familiarity, but with Panda Bear and Sonic Boom’s production over top just adds a touch of glorious weirdness. Like I could legitimately see a bunch of kids dancing and frolicking to these songs. But if the daycare was on another planet.
From the joy of “Edge From The Edge” to the electro whimsy of “Whirlpool” to the kinetic album closer “Everything’s Been Leading To This”, Reset is a musical shot of seratonin.