Panda Bear and Sonic Boom go way back. A mention in ‘Person Pitch’’s liner notes (2007) and an appreciative MySpace message led to Sonic Boom producing ‘Tomboy’ (2011) and ‘Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper’ (2015). ‘Reset’ finds the pair working even closer than before as they spin around cheerful loops and draw upon a shared love of rock ’n’ roll and the Beach Boys.
Next to 2019’s ‘Buoys’ and ‘Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper’’s reimagining of dub tropes, ‘Reset’ seems less adventurous and intriguing at first listen, but, like these two, demands closer listening, because of its level of detail.
The songs are built around loops created by Sonic Boom and inspired by the lush intros of vintage rock and pop, which are surprisingly fertile, but do not always lend themselves to memorable full-length songs. The addition of spacey synths, bleeps and the intricate production root the album in the present, but the bare ideas and all the claps and tambourine constantly pull us back to the past. This kind of tension has been explored better and in a more emotionally rich way on previous releases.
The album’s strongest moments come when the pair embrace the weird and cherry-pick the stranger elements of what has inspired them. Fortunately, there are many examples of this: the reverse reverb, vocal trickery and odd coda of ‘In My Body’, ‘Whirlpool’s’ pulsating rhythm, the echo-drenched ‘Everyday’, on which their two voices complement each other well.
There are surprises in store. ‘Danger’ begins with a jerky two chord rhythm and a bit of organ, and you wonder how they’ll make a five-minute song out of it. But it develops into something much more beguiling, with Panda Bear’s voice, youthful as ever, and Sonic Boom’s production nous again proving a winning combination.
It is impossible to ignore the context of its production: it came together during the summer of 2020, when the pair were able to reconvene after lockdown. Lyrically, there are a lot of nods to moving forward. Brighter and airier than a lot of corona art, it might also be also more enduring. It’s a collaboration that invites listeners along for a ride between a now- distant musical past and the present.
Words: Wilf Skinner