Meanwhile, I'm Still Thinking
I don't know that I'd call Bloody Panda's Pheromone "demanding," just because I am a little suspicious of what that word means when it's deployed in a music-crit context: does it or does it not mean "you're not going to enjoy this"? Which would be a lie in the present case: few experiences are more immediately rewarding than getting to the last third of Pheromone, and reaching the point at which its vocabulary becomes mine. There's a period of resistance through the first track, kind of like the first five or ten minutes of a lot of free jazz shows, where (say) Vandermark blows staccato placekeeper notes through his mouthpiece in order to find the zone. It's both a lull-you-in strategy and an admission that the process is necessary on either side of the fourth wall. By the end of Pheromone I feel as if I've been floating in the ocean, the tide going out at the same time as the storm-clouds were gathering. Its climax, which occurs over a mournful eight minutes or so, is like the baby-carriage in Battleship Potemkin running on a slo-mo loop.
So I start the album over. What else am I to do? And then the first song (I suspect that song titles are something of a formality with Bloody Panda, but for the record, the first song here is called "Untitled") reveals itself a little more: the quieter section around the three-minute mark rises airily above the din, and the clean entrance of the bass and some wind-y instrument midway through seem more momentous.
There are all kinds of rote catalogue descriptions for a record like this: "repays repeated listening," "a grower," and a variety of synonyms for "complex." I don't know about all that; it seems like there's a very particular thing at work on Pheromone, a sort of secret style of prayer. "Complex" need not mean "unduly eggheaded." Here, let it mean "bigger than it looks at first." Do look as closely as you can.
TrackBack URL for this entry: