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Baker's Dozen

Everything Serves The Rhythm: Panda Bear's Favourite Albums
Joe Clay , January 15th, 2015 11:34

The Animal Collective man released his fifth solo album, Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper, this week. Before he did, he sat down with Joe Clay to pick 13 formative favourite records


African Brothers Dance Band - (International)
This was an album that either Eric [Copeland] from Black Dice or Dave, from Animal Collective, bought when they lived together in Brooklyn. I remember going over to Dave's place to practice and him playing me that record. It was the first album from Africa that really made me want to hear everything from that period of music in Africa. It also reminded me of James Brown or something - like where the whole production is like a rhythm machine. It's all very interlocked and every element has a very specific rhythmic relationship with each other. I feel like being the drummer in the band and approaching music from a strictly rhythmic point has led me to make music in that context. Some people are really good at making these floaty melodies, things that have these organic movements, like classical music for example. But I'm not really able to do that. I would assume it's because I'm a drummer and that was my function in music. I tend to make music more in the mould of African Brothers or James Brown, where everything is laid out in a pattern - everything serves the rhythm instead of the melodic components of the music.

So when you're writing music, specifically as Panda Bear as opposed to part of Animal Collective, do you always start with rhythms?

Tomboy was all guitar - I wanted to write guitar songs, but in an abstract way. But, yeah, this time pretty much everything started with rhythms. For a good six to eight months of the life of every song there was just rhythm - maybe a synth sample or a part in there to create the environment of the song. The singing part and the words were the very last thing to come. Those elements had to fit into a very specific, rigid, rhythmic image of the song. Which is why the words had to come last. I had to fudge the lyrics. I couldn't just write poetry, they had to have a specific cadence.

Do you find writing lyrics hard?

Lyrics are always really hard for me.

Do you ever feel like just making instrumental music? What compels you to keep writing songs with words?

I think because I love pop music so much - it's a highway to communication. Using language is an immediate connection. I think that's the impulse. I want to express something. I want to communicate with somebody else.

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