March 20th marks the tenth anniversary of Panda Bear’s ‘Person Pitch’, a mesmerizingly playful, radiant and surreal record shaped by eclectic influences, topography and coincidence, amounting to a final creation which remains unsurpassed in contemporary psychedelia. ‘Person Pitch’ is the result of the hours of work Noah Lennox put into a bedroom studio entwined in wires and strewn with samplers, microphones, laptops and keyboards which formed a unique sound concurrently influenced by the Mediterranean warmth of his newly inhabited Lisbon residence. Customs issues meant no guitar equipment at Noah’s disposal, yet that very occurrence shaped the approach to song-craft which gave ‘Person Pitch’ its distinctive edge.
The liner notes both prime and enlighten the listener, thanking artists (such as Lee Scratch Perry, Madlib and Spacemen 3 to name a few) that lend to a sound which counteracts anachronistically breezy production with futuristic sample-based song-writing. Part ‘Pet Sounds’, part ‘Endtroducing..…’, ‘Person Pitch’ eschews melody with reverb, appends sound snippets plucked from the heart of the wilderness and constructs songs in a collage like manner where each stroke of the sampling palette allows for a clearer final painting. Featuring field recordings of the heady sounds of skateboards rolling over concrete, passing cars, animal commotions (such as hooting owls) and irrational laughter, ‘Person Pitch’ is an enthralling listening experience.
Opening with the familiar, nursery rhyme-esque melodies and recurring chants of ‘Comfy In Nautica’, a flair of the exotic is let loose which remains undiminished for the entirety of the album, especially comprehended in the albums two centrepiece tracks. First up is ‘Bros’, the shimmering, hypnotic epic where Panda Bear’s vocals elevate and lead over Cat Stevens lifted repeated guitar motifs, concluded with a firework finale which delivers the celebratory send-off it truly deserves. The latter is ‘Good Girl/Carrots’, a track of two a-symmetrical fragments. It leads headfirst through bizarre passages of tribal tabla polyrhythms played over backmasked vocals, handclaps and horn fanfares, eventually liquefying into uneasy dub reggae rhythms, infrequent bass guitar slides, piano loops and offbeat guitar strokes. The icing on the cake is the sample pocketed from Kraftwerk’s ‘Ananas Symphonie’, where twinkling child’s toy melodies play over Noah’s lush vocals and the irresistible reggae skank.
Elsewhere on ‘Person Pitch’, hymnal choirs resonate over beats which fall like dripping water on ‘I’m Not’, campfire singalongs and hazy-eyed dubs ensue in ‘Take Pills’ and ambient soundscapes contrast the rhythmical mood featured throughout the album on ‘Search for Delicious’ as samples of geese in flight support the album in unwinding. The steady beats of ‘Ponytail’ seem like they’re from a distant island where all night parties are held to the house music of Moodyman, Luomo, Daft Punk, The Orb and Basic Channel; musicians who all feature in Panda’s “thank you” liner notes.
The overwhelming critical response and influence following the release of ‘Person Pitch’ was nothing short of astonishing. Not only did it overshadow Animal Collective’s (Panda’s troupe of neo-psych partisans) ‘Strawberry Jam’ which was released that same year, it also pre-empted the tropical psych-pop of their follow up, ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’. It led a legion of artists to abandon their guitars and cram their bedrooms with samplers and synthesizers, foreshadowing the chillwave movement which gained prominence at the end of the decade. Repeated listens are essential, ‘Person Pitch’ rewards the listener with a new discovery of sound upon each spin; they can pinpoint to specific moments they love within the sampling milieu or work out the origins of a familiar melody or sample. Whilst most modern psychedelic acts look no further than the late 60s for inspiration, Panda Bear took cues from every decade to create a piece of music which took a glimpse into the future and transcends eras.