Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper: The Behind The Scenes Story with Sonic Boom

pbgr vs sonicboom

Noah Lennox aka Panda Bear (from Animal Collective) has been teasing the follow up album to 2011’s Tomboy for some time now with tour dates spanning the last year featuring almost all new songs, eerie new Danny Perez visuals showcasing a grim reaper figure, rumors from friends/fans, and the cryptic, captivating, and elusive words of Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom (aka Pete Kember, who also produced Tomboy).

It all started on June 22, 2013 when Panda Bear played a one off solo date for Deerhunter’s ATP curated festival and debuted 12 new songs in their very raw infancy that would ultimately become the start of what we now know as his upcoming album, Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper. Thanks to the good folks at Collected Animals (Animal Collective’s largest official fan forum), a recording of the show secretly surfaced on the internet (complete with CA fan created song names) but was not widely publicized or shared due to rumors that Noah requested any recordings not be posted online since the songs were still so underdeveloped. In my rabid fandom I managed to coerce a fellow CA member to send me the private link while promising that I would keep the treasured recording to myself. And I did.

Despite the raw nature of the songs, the decent recording of his ATP set showed promise of a whole new world of Panda Bear songs full of break beat heavy hip-hop influenced drums, trance inducing tropical sounding loops, and catchy layers of lyrical melodies and wordplay. Gone away with the live effected guitar playing that dominated Tomboy, the live debuted songs leaned slightly back towards the sample-driven sound of Person Pitch yet were still excitingly different, carrying a more focused sound palette and bursting with new ideas. Refreshing, raw, and honest are adjectives that come to mind when remembering the first opportunity I had to hear the live recording.

Since the cat is out of the bag and just today the details of Panda Bear’s upcoming album Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper was officially announced via his website PBVSGR.com (including a trailer video, a music video, a link to pre-order the album, and a 4 song EP that comes free with all pre-orders) I am going to take the liberty to share that original ATP recording with you via the link below. If Noah or anyone takes any issue with this, please contact me and I will take it down but I think it’s still an enjoyable listen and is an important reference for the rest of the article to come. And with that said, back on to the story.

Panda Bear Live – Deerhunter ATP (06/22/13)

  1. Popadam (Wazzup)
  2. Ms Pacman (Till I Die) [now Faces In the Crowd]
  3. Faces In The Crowd [song name changed]/Jabawaqy (Tribe Vibes, for both since was considered one song)
  4. Boys Latin (Dark Cloud)
  5. Mr Noah (Triple Eye)
  6. Nadir (Take Care) [now Selfish Gene]
  7. Tropic of Cancer (Can’t Go Back)
  8. This Side of Paradise (Shut Up)
  9. Garage (Day After Day) [now Crosswords]
  10. Principe Real
  11. Cosplay

The set list above shows the eventual song title and then the original Collected Animals created song titles (in parentheses). These make a lot of the Sonic references and clues make a lot more sense when later following along below.

And so, a great deal of time went by and not much news surfaced regarding the new tracks except that they were being continually worked on and that a new album was expected to come to fruition sometime in 2014. There was another one off tour stop in November 2013 at the Pitchfork Festival Paris which furthered the previous ATP excitment but that’s about it. At some point it also became known that Spacemen 3’s Pete Kember aka Sonic Boom would once again man the production duties on the record but unlike the remote nature of Tomboy this would be an in person collaborative hang out process full of stories and inside jokes and riddles. But on to that shortly.

So then mid 2014 came and without any official announcement yet of a new record or a release date, news broke that Panda Bear would play a string of live dates starting in May. As it soon became clear, the live dates featured virtually all new songs and beautifully odd immersive accompanying visuals thanks to regular visual collaborator Danny Perez. Not only that, but they prominently featured a grim reaper figure holding a stuffed panda bear giving more credence to the rumor of some configuration of a Panda Bear and Grim Reaper related album title.

On one of the early May live dates in Brooklyn a great live recording hit the internet thanks to the Two Sails blog which quickly had the Collected Animals members buzzing about the new tracks, some clearly re-worked from the original ATP recording, some completely new, but all sharing a much more polished multi-layered glowing sound with sweet song to song transitions and all. The internet would soon catch on as Panda continued to tour, fans were left in awe, and slowly via social networks, blogs, and youtube videos, word began to spread of these new amazing PB jams. Not to mention, it didn’t hurt that Panda Bear was featured on arguably the best track off Daft Punk’s recent Random Access Memories album with “Doin’ It Right” that increased the general hipster’s awareness of Mr. Noah tenfold.

Panda Bear – Live @ Warsaw, Brooklyn (5/18/14) [Two Sails Blog]

  1. [entrance]
  2. Sequential Circuits (Make Believe)
  3. Garage (Day After Day) [now Crosswords]
  4. Jabawaqy (Heart and Soul)
  5. Boys Latin (Dark Cloud)
  6. Come To Your Senses (Vacuum)
  7. Tropic of Cancer (Can’t Go Back)
  8. Robert Frost (Down Below) [now Untying The Knot]
  9. Butcher Maker Candlestick Maker (Other Guy)
  10. Principe Real
  11. Nadir (Fill Those Spaces) [now Selfish Gene]
  12. [encore]
  13. Last Night At The Jetty
  14. Scheherazade
  15. Surfers Hymn

The set list above shows the revealed song name and then the Collected Animals created initial song name (in parentheses).

And so with that lengthy intro to the Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper saga, on to the meat of this article, the wordy clues and riddles of Sonic Boom. As tension was building within the Collected Animals community for any sort of news (release date, name, info, tracks, etc) on the surely upcoming Panda Bear record Mr. Kember himself surprised many by one day creating a Collected Animals account under his alias Sonic Boom and stirring the pot of rumors and anxiety by commenting on the dedicated Panda Bear Grime Reaper thread giving life to the quiet hibernating Panda Bear.

What follows is pure internet gold ladies and gentlemen and is not only a testament of how awesome a person Pete is, but how wonderful it can be when artists and fans connect and are both having a good time. Read on below for Sonic Booms comments on the Collected Animals forum in chronological order (or create a CA account and head to the PBmtGR thread to read the whole thing, context and all).

Throughout the thread Pete K (Sonic Boom) cryptically shares wonderful insights about the recording process, the song titles, lyrics, meanings, how Noah works, pictures, release details, and much more. Be sure to follow along closely to see if you can decipher some of the hints that are later revealed, discovered, and now known to be true.

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Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 2.03.41 AM

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At this point Panda Bear’s new website PBVSGR.com debuts and includes a mix Panda Bear made which includes a few short snippets of Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper tracks.

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And that’s it folks…so far at least. I may continue to update this. I may not. I don’t know. It takes a lot of time. I hope you enjoyed the ride. That Sonic Boom is something else, eh? He’d certainly win an award for most entertaining fan friendly artist dude if you asked me. But you didn’t did you? Or maybe you did. These things are hard to tell.

Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper – Jan. 13, 2015.

pbvsgr coverI’ll go ahead and prematurely give it my vote for best album of 2015 right now. That’s right. Audacious. You heard it here first.

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