PANDA BEAR & SONIC BOOM + RUUNES + AUTOMOUSE (DJ) – KOMEDIA, BRIGHTON 26.4.23
This evening the Brighton & Hove News Music Team were out in force throughout the City as there were plenty of choice acts to choose from. Yours truly and photographer Cherie Elody had selected Komedia Brighton as the venue of choice, as this evening they (along with promoter, Melting Vinyl), were putting on a performance from psychedelic pop/electronic act Panda Bear and Sonic Boom.
Panda Bear’s real name is Noah Lennox and he is a member of Animal Collective and he and Sonic Boom, aka Peter Kember, who is a former Spacemen 3 member and electronic producer, formed the ultimate artistic alliance during the Covid lockdowns, releasing their joint electronic album ‘Reset’ back in August 2022 via Domino Records.
This gained much acclaim from fans and critics; the collaboration was hailed as “a psychedelic love-letter to pop music” (TIME) and “the most pleasurable release of either of their careers” (Pitchfork). ‘Reset’ was also named one of the best albums of the year by MOJO, Uncut, Vogue, Pitchfork, and more. Clearly the guys had been putting their enforced solitudes to great advantage. You can find the ‘Reset’ album HERE. It should be noted that a $1 contribution from each CD and LP sold goes towards Earthisland.org. Earth Island Institute’s non-profit mission is to conserve, preserve, and restore the environment.
Panda Bear and Sonic Boom as one entity have created a powerful Psych Pop sound built on the foundation of sampling 1950s and 1960s pop songs from Sonic Boom’s exquisite record collection. As a collaborative force Panda Bear and Sonic Boom endorse musical experimentation through intelligent manipulation of sampling and production, angelic dual pop vocals, and electronic soundscapes and textures. These two artists as a duo have created a sound which embraces the beauties of the past, present, and future, proving themselves to be an exciting staple of the post-modern in music.
This joint artistic journey, celebrates the nostalgia of vintage pop reminiscing on the glory days of acts such as the Beach Boys, as well as the primal need for ambient soundscapes and minimal pulsating beats.
Thankfully this evening the duo were to perform their ‘Reset’ album in full in the exact running order, so this made our job a little easier. After which we were treated to a handful of other ditties.
They graced the stage at 8:59pm and for the next 94 minutes, until 10:33pm entertained the mixed generations crowd with 14 numbers. American born 44 year old Panda Bear stood on our left (stage right) and Rugby born 57 year old Sonic Boom was seated on our right (stage left). Vocal duties were shared, but a majority fell to Panda Bear who was also tinkering with his Elektron Octatrack MKII unit, which is a stereo sampler, looper, arranger, mixing and effects hub, workstation, and performance instrument. On the other end of the technical scale he also had a mini wooden croaking frog güiro (as did Sonic Boom). Sonic Boom also had a VLZ4 ultra-compact analog mixer as well as a number of varying styles of whistles and mini keyboards. There were quite a few handclaps from the duo as well. Sonic Boom also had A4 sheet notes with the lyrics on for each composition, which were folded in half after each number had finished.
Their performance was enriched by the use of their own graphics which were screened behind them, and was mainly consisting of a centrally positioned graphic of a dancing figure in various forms to accompany each composition.
Sonic Boom announced at the beginning that they would be playing “what they got up to during lockdown”, and they began with the Eddie Cochran ‘Three Steps To Heaven’ sounding ‘Gettin’ To The Point’ (from their ‘Reset’ album). After its conclusion, I must say that I was a little taken aback as to how much love (via loud applause and whoops!) there was from the sardine-like crowd. There was a lot of warmth in the room and this continued throughout their whole set. Everyone was respectful and listened to the music being played for them, bar a trio to the front right of the crowd who literally nattered right the way through! Why on earth were they even there? We don’t want to hear about how you were recently at the PiL gig and what you thought of it, blah, blah, bloody blah!
Tune two, the twangy guitar sounding Beach Boys-esque ‘Go On’ was up next and was followed by the earworm notes and handclap friendly ‘Everyday’. After this we had the first tune I ever heard from the LP, that being the Beach Boys sounding ‘Edge Of The Edge’, with infectious “dow dow dow dow” vocal backing from Sonic Boom, which is almost my favourite song of theirs. The geisha sounding dreamlike ‘In My Body’ followed, after which the electronic vines of ‘Whirlpool’ arrived.
The cowboy and Indians-esque Western plains sounding ‘Danger’ arrived, with its “all that you do for me” earworm lyrics was next on the menu. Our next course was the feel-good hip swinging Latino/Mexican sounding ‘Livin’ In The After’, which is another of my favourites, but this was eclipsed by the album’s closing number, the uplifting ‘Everything’s Been Leading To This’, which certainly sounds as though it easily could have been penned by AK/DK or the like.
And so after 57 minutes, the duo announced a little liquid refreshment break, Panda Bear opting for a San Miguel beer and Sonic Boom went with a crisp and nutty Italian Gavi white wine. You can’t really call this two minute gap in musical proceedings an interval, but that’s what it was meant to be as opposed to your normal encore.
There were a handful of solo penned numbers still to play for us across the next 35 minutes, beginning with Sonic Boom’s quiet and laid back ‘Just A Little Piece Of Me’ (from his 2020 ‘All Things Being Equal’ album). Panda Bear’s ‘The Preakness’ (from his 2011 ‘Tomboy’ extended edition album) was up next, after which we had Sonic Boom’s ‘Things Like This (A Little Bit Deeper)’ (from 2020 ‘All Things Being Equal’ album), which started a bit like Jean Michel Jarre’s ‘Oxygene’ single.
Their penultimate number this evening for us was Panda Bear’s Beach Boys-esque ‘Comfy In Nautica’ (from his 2007 ‘Person Pitch’ album), and the duo signed off with Panda Bear’s retro dreamscape longing ‘Tropic Of Cancer’ (from the 2015 ‘Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper’ album). It was pleasant to hear additional material from the guys, but for me personally, none of these encore tunes quite hit the mark of their combined lockdown time spanning masterpiece.
It was now 10:33pm and time to either vacate the venue, or take your plastic beakers to the bar for your £1 refund each (which someone “kindly” did for ours and pocketed the change or it could have been a super eager member of staff), or it was time to head to the merch stand. Thankfully for the duo, many punters did the latter!
Panda Bear & Sonic Boom setlist:
‘Gettin’ To The Point’ (from 2022 ‘Reset’ album)
‘Go On’ (from 2022 ‘Reset’ album)
‘Everyday’ (from 2022 ‘Reset’ album)
‘Edge Of The Edge’ (from 2022 ‘Reset’ album)
‘In My Body’ (from 2022 ‘Reset’ album)
‘Whirlpool’ (from 2022 ‘Reset’ album)
‘Danger’ (from 2022 ‘Reset’ album)
‘Livin’ In The After’ (from 2022 ‘Reset’ album)
‘Everything’s Been Leading To This’ (from 2022 ‘Reset’ album)
‘Just A Little Piece Of Me’ (Sonic Boom song) (from 2020 ‘All Things Being Equal’ album)
‘The Preakness’ (Panda Bear song) (from 2011 ‘Tomboy’ extended edition album)
‘Things Like This (A Little Bit Deeper)’ (Sonic Boom song) (from 2020 ‘All Things Being Equal’ album)
‘Comfy In Nautica’ (Panda Bear song) (from 2007 ‘Person Pitch’ album)
‘Tropic Of Cancer’ (Panda Bear song) (from 2015 ‘Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper’ album)
Ed informed us that “Ruunes has been a project in the background for 10 years, but is only now just starting to emerge out of the studio. It started as live techno jams that I did whilst trying to get my baby daughter to sleep. She would only sleep whilst I wore her in the baby carrier, in the studio making techno! So there are hours of live studio jams from this collaboration!”
Ed also whetted our appetite by adding that “AK/DK have been busy working on a new album – this time featuring an exciting array of guests… more to be revealed later in the year..!”
This evening we were treated to a handful of unreleased numbers that fused synths, cassettes, arps and drones. The set began at 7:59pm and ran until 8:30pm and the equipment of choice was modular synth with many wires that sat nearly into a split briefcase that Ed’s grandparents gave him. Also on the go was a KeyStep Arturia controller and sequencer, as well as a Elektron Octatrack sampler.
Whereas Panda Bear and Sonic Boom had their own visuals, Ed was ably assisted by Lewes based Innerstrings who operated the liquid light art and live visuals on the rear screen, whilst Ed tinkered at the centre front of the stage.
Like the headlining set, the sound this evening was nice and crisp and the deep bass notes were rather meaty as well, which was a joy. It appears that all of the five compositions played this evening for us have current working titles and if (and hopefully when) they eventually see the light of day, they may very well be called something else! So bearing this in mind, Ed started with ‘Sometimes I Wish I Was An Inanimate Object’ which was rather fantastic and even had the benefit of the occasional electronic vocals which were connected to one of the units.
After a decent loud applause from the eager crowd, Ed was off again with ‘Emeralds’ which was a pumping choon. Ed inserted an actual cassette tape into the tape player midway through this number, in order to add extra instrumentation. ‘And/Or’ was next and this laid down the rules for the rest of the song with a thudding beat injected with some R2-D2 squeaks and backing sounds that also at times sounded like ‘October Love Song’ from Chris and Cosey, luv it.
The penultimate track was ‘Rising In The East’ which initially benefited from the feeling of early morning in Ibiza, prior to the thud of the bass kicking in and suddenly the clocks were wound back a few hours! The final number was ‘The Hum’. It sits roughly where house music meets trance, and there were nods to several Jam & Spoon compositions as well as ‘The Lebanon’ from The Human League, in a beats kinda way.
A most enjoyable set and hope to catch next time around, over to you then Ed…..
‘Sometimes I Wish I Was An Inanimate Object’
‘Rising In The East’
This evening they had an intriguing DJ going by the moniker of Automouse, who it is said that they “transmit relentlessly dirty sounds from a dystopian/utopian future”. Adding to this, it is stated that “The eye eats a tiny bit of the soul you weren’t using anyway”. By that they mean that the DJ wore headgear that was the size of a compact TV and broadcast visual images of an eye, which the selection of songs were chose, the highlight of that being Orbital, just prior to Ruunes taking to the stage.