I’m not a big believer in self-help books. Frankly, I think that a lot of it is either reworded bits of common sense, or feel good platitudes that ultimately mean nothing. One of the latest in the long series of self-help mumbo jumbo is The Secret, a book that essentially cribs from business, religious and other self-help books to create one 200 page compilation of absolute crap. What is The Secret, you may be asking? Simply this, if you really want it to happen, it will. You may have heard of this before when it was called The Power of Positive Thinking. I once worked with someone who thought that the self-help section should only contain one book, and that said book would be only one page long and would read, “You are responsible for your own happiness.” I thought that summed everything up fairly nicely. Panda Bear, one of the members of the Animal Collective, seems to agree also, as is put forth in his space-folk album of tidbits of wisdom, Person Pitch.
Imagine taking a deep-sea adventure with Jacques Cousteau, and Brian Wilson in a diving bell providing the vocal soundtrack. Or, envision yourself in a space capsule in Earth’s orbit with Neil Armstrong, and Buddy Holly strumming along through your headphones from home base. This is the sensation you get when listening to Panda Bear. The first feeling you get, in listening to the sound of trains riding the rails at the opening of “Comfy in Nautica,” is that you are transported to some other world. This world is slightly underwater, with bubbles of sound floating all about your head. But just as you feel you’re about to get the bends, Panda Bear’s voice comes through, telling us, “Try to remember always, just to have a good time.” Fine advice indeed, and beautifully delivered.
The nuggets of illumination continue in “Take Pills,” as Panda Bear sings about taking one thing at a time. Some of you may be thinking to yourself that these words of wisdom aren’t exactly new or groundbreaking. True, but they are in the way they’re expressed. Tribal drums, acoustic guitars, ethereal harmonic vocals, found sounds and keyboards all combine to present the material within its own landscape. “Good Girl / Carrots,” I imagine, would have had me entranced and hypnotized by the repetitive spacey beats even had I not been on cold medication at the time I was reviewing it. This collection of tracks from Panda Bear is most unlike his last project, the ultra-personal Young Prayer, an album recorded after the death of his father. It is, however, to the delight of Animal Collective fans everywhere, more in line with the brilliant Sung Tongs.
Person Pitch is one of those albums that is so intricately put together, that it might take more than a few listens to hear everything, and even then I wouldn’t be so sure. It seems a lot of work for someone trying to tell us to `take it easy.’ But that goes along with the idea that the message is simple, yet the delivery system is uniquely weird and complicated. Not to mention that Panda Bear has finally provided a way to feel the sensation of weightlessness without getting wet or putting on a space suit. We couldn’t have asked for a better tour guide.