sun 03/03/2024

Panda Bear & Sonic Boom, Komedia, Brighton review - a delightfully woozy head-trip | reviews, news & interviews

Panda Bear & Sonic Boom, Komedia, Brighton review - a delightfully woozy head-trip

Panda Bear & Sonic Boom, Komedia, Brighton review - a delightfully woozy head-trip

American-English duo bliss out a Brighton basement

Peter Kember and Noah Lennox

My associate for the evening has recently returned from Breaking Convention, a conference on psychedelics, celebrating their renaissance in recent years. He’s been microdosing regularly. Around us the crowd sways, many with eyes closed, bobbing, silhouetted by two screens and a stage backdrop on which a dancing silver-grey blob-humanoid grooves itself to liquid, splatters flowing off it.

Equally shadowy onstage, two dark-haired men are clapping. The one on the left is singing too. “Can't say it’s what you bargained for/It’s forever at the push of a button/Up to the edge of the edge of the edge of the edge of the edge of the edge of the edge of the edge…”. The sound is prime Beach Boys, but smeared in drone weirdness, smudgy twinkles of synth, lovely, hypnotic, unlikely.

“It feels like I never left Breaking Convention,” my friend laughs. I can imagine. This is plenty psychedelic.

Panda Bear, AKA Noah Lennox of US outfit Animal Collective, has carved his own solo path, exploring ways of reinventing pop’s history via the warping potential of electronica. He is the guy on the left, singing. Sonic Boom (Peter Kember), once of cosmic riff-juggernauts Spacemen 3, more recently a one-man journey into mesmeric analogue synthesizer head-fry, is the guy on the right. He has collaborated with Panda Bear on music for over a decade, co-producing albums. But it’s last year’s joint effort, Reset, that this tour honours.

Conceptually fascinating, the album’s amalgam or Beach Boys sounds with trance-inducing wooziness was not immediate for me, but repeated plays revealed a lush, tripped-out gorgeousness. This concert is simply the pair playing through it. Kember sits at a collection of synths, occasionally bashing various hand-held percussion, and blowing into an apparently endless succession of whistles and whistle-like instruments, adding extra dimensions to their sound. He also sings a bit, his bassy voice a drone, but most of the singing is Lennox, who has an emotive but not frail bluesy tone, which phases in and out of the soundbed.

The basement venue, fine for seated gigs, stand-up comics, and club nights, is not ideal for standing gigs such as this, with limited or no sightlines for most. Yet the audience, which, to my surprise, contains a decent smattering of women amongst the BBC6 Music dad brigade, seem unbothered. A content, smiley vibe permeates. Everyone is just wallowing in these songs. The catchy, aforementioned “Edge of the Edge”, the spaced-out opiate odyssey of “Whirpool”, and the joyful Sixties pop of “Living in the After” are highlights, but the whole is a welcome hour-long sound-bubblebath.

The half-hour encore, however, starts to see a few drift off. I start to grow antsy too, as the duo dive deeper into Temazepam somniferousness with a selection of solo Panda Bear and Sonic Boom cuts. The narcotic dream journey of Sonic Boom’s “Things Like This (A Little Bit Deeper)” sucked me into its relentless hypno-wake but by this point, each song is seeming slower than the last until the end is reached with the gossamer waftings of Panda Bear’s “Tropic of Cancer”.

The main body of the concert, however, was well worth attending. And there are those who might quite rightly point out that, for the last part, I was simply not on enough of the right drugs.

Below: Watch the video for "Edge of the Edge" by Panda Bear & Sonic Boom

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