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In concert: Panda Bear at The Ottobar

panda bearPanda Bear brought the bliss in Baltimore.

By David Malitz

BALTIMORE - Home field advantage can work in music as well as sports. Noah Lennox - aka Panda Bear, the sweet-voiced star of 2009 indie breakout band Animal Collective - spent part of the summer previewing songs from his upcoming album “Tomboy” and experienced something unheard of lately in Animal Collective universe: lukewarm reviews. Often playing at large, outdoor festivals the buzz about his sets often contained the dreaded “b” word - boring. But on Sunday night at a sold-out homecoming show at the tiny Ottobar it was a different “b” word that best described the show - blissful.

With a rapt hometown audience focused on his every move - sometimes strumming a guitar, more often simply turning a knob on a sampler - Lennox showcased music from “Tomboy” that offered a familiar, yet distinctive take on the always-evolving Animal Collective aesthetic. His songs are mostly-electronic compositions built on gorgeous sounds that are looped, warped, twisted and turned inside out only to emerge as even more beautiful.

Compared to the material from his spectacular 2007 album “Person Pitch,” the new material is much more straightforward and beat-driven. Instead of the multi-layered collages that worked themselves into a head-spinning frenzy, “Tomboy” and “Slow Motion” followed a straighter line, focused on a single, slow rhythm with limited embellishments. This helped keep much of the focus on Lennox’s voice, which is never a bad idea. For all the otherworldly sounds Animal Collective can conjure up, Lennox’s voice remains the most alluring weapon in their arsenal.

His warm, commanding chant may drift into space during open air performances but in enveloped the entire Ottobar on Sunday night. As video artist Danny Perez (collaborator on Animal Collective’s “Oddsac” film) projected appropriately psychedelic visuals on a screen behind Lennox the effect was something like the complete opposite of the nerve-fraying brainwashing scene in “A Clockwork Orange.”

By David Malitz  |  September 13, 2010; 4:14 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: Panda Bear  
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