Panda Bear / Sonic Boom

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Reset Review

by Fred Thomas

Animal Collective member Panda Bear and the equally influential Sonic Boom (aka Peter Kember, who co-founded Spacemen 3 before taking his music even further out under various solo guises) began working together around the time of Panda Bear's 2011 outing Tomboy, and they've played significant roles in each other's music since then. More than a decade after beginning their creative partnership, Reset is the first official joint effort from Panda Bear and Sonic Boom, and it returns to the strongest basic elements of each artist's talents while also pushing in new directions. The initial inspirations for Reset came when Sonic Boom revisited some of his favorite albums and realized that so many great songs began with intros strong enough to serve as the foundation for songs of their own. The nine tracks here essentially put this realization into motion, sampling miniature loops from other artists' songs and stretching them into new creations by adding electronics, original lyrics, and thick layers of melody and texture. In this way, Reset recalls some of both Panda Bear's and Sonic Boom's best work. The doo wop harmonies and handclaps suspended in place on "Edge of the Edge" serve as an anchor for Panda Bear's blissed-out, reverb-heavy vocals, following the same template of his 2007 high-water mark album Person Pitch. The tropical psychedelia of "Whirlpool" has a similar sunny delirium as Sonic Boom's songs on Spacemen 3's 1991 swan song Recurring. On their previous collaborative work, Panda Bear handled all of the vocals, but Sonic Boom steps up to the mic several times on Reset, even singing lead on the digital twee tune "Everyday." The fragmented oldies samples, druggy synth sequences, and beachy harmonies are all staple sounds for the duo, but Reset has a playful levity that's often missing from even the most lighthearted moments of their other albums. There's a sense that the heightened collaborative element takes the pressure off of both artists, and the songs sound like two old friends joyfully exchanging ideas and toying with the possibilities of their sound. Even when other records by Panda Bear or Sonic Boom have suggested positivity and low-stakes fun, none have quite delivered that feeling like Reset does.

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