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When you come face-to-face with death, what will you say? Will you freeze up or invite him in? When Noah Lennox met the Grim Reaper, they made music together. Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper is his fifth solo album and signifies a landmark moment in the music of Panda Bear, now at the peak of his powers, where does one go next? Lennox has stated himself that, "It's sort of marking change -- not necessarily an absolute death, but the ending of something, and hopefully the beginning of something else." Is this is the end of Panda Bear as we know it?

Going from strength to strength with Animal Collective, releasing a couple of 21st-century classics in the form of Person Pitch and Merriweather Post Pavilion, collaborating with Atlas Sound, Pantha du Prince and - most recently - Daft Punk, it's clear to see why a progressive artist such as Lennox is keen for some kind of rebirth. Not being one who likes to play fan favourites from his previous albums, if you've seen Panda Bear perform in the last few years, chances are you will have heard a few tracks from this album. When I saw him play at the 2013 Deerhunter ATP, I didn't recognise a single song. All I remember was my brain being pulverised with some seriously loud, electronic psych-noise. On this release, Panda Bear forsakes his trademark woozy, looped guitar rhythms for a thick soup of saturated synths.

Some things haven't changed though, and Noah's distinctive cyclical vocal delivery remains as captivating as ever. On opener 'Sequential Circuits' the apparition of the Grim Reaper is a looming presence; church organ chords, ghostly vocals and a low, grumbling drone sees out the song. It's a creepy intro to an album which has dark undertones running throughout. It's not all dark shadows and ominous drones, the fittingly named 'Mr Noah' exposes all the feral joy held deep within a Panda Bear track completely let loose. There isn't really a musician on earth making music like Panda Bear at the moment, in fact has there ever been? Alien-like vocals delivered in strange incantations over a thick sludge of dreamy atmospheres and tribal rhythms, seriously, he is some kind of musical cosmonaut.

The sequence of tracks on Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper finds particular moods and vibes together in pairs: 'Crosswords' and 'Butcher Baker Candlestick Maker' are soft focussed jams; 'Boys Latin' and 'Come To Your Senses' are propelled forwards by rambling, spinning vocals and bass-heavy synth percussion; 'Tropic of Cancer' and 'Lonely Wanderer' are the most untypical Panda Bear recordings to date, based around blissful harp or elegiac piano motifs. By the time 'Lonely Wanderer' finishes, it definitely feels like Panda Bear might be losing his battle with the Grim Reaper, his soul finally ascending to whatever crazy planet exists in his minds afterlife. But he takes the battle back to the Reaper during the album's final few tracks.

'Principe Real' was made to soundtrack some trippy comedown on a beach whilst the sun tickles the watery horizon, and 'Selfish Gene', opening with the line "Just now I see it so clear," sounds like some great awaking striking at the perfect moment of physical revelation, when every particle and atom in your body becomes a compressed mass, obvious and conscious. Final track 'Acid Wash' is a veritable victory lap, Panda Bear orbiting a conquered existence, holding the head of the Grim Reaper in one hand, and an effigy of his previous self in the other.

This isn't the death of Noah Lennox, but this could possibly spell the end for Panda Bear as we know it. It would be easy for an artist like Lennox to continue as he currently proceeds, and we might all be better for it. However, a restless soul like Noah's need to reinvent and regenerate when the times are good for fear of turning stale. Basically, Panda Bear is Dr Who with a Roland sample pad. Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper is not the private masterpiece that Person Pitch turned out to be, but it might be the final triumphant salute to an unforgettable chapter in Lennox's career.

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