Panda Bear A Day with the Homies

[Domino; 2018]

Styles: friendship, freedom
Others: Panda Bear

“A real feeling of freedom occurs only in a fruitful relationship — when being with others brings happiness.”
– Byung-Chul Han, Psychopolitics

“Being free and having ties was one and the same thing. I am free because I have ties, because I am linked to a reality greater than me.”
– The Invisible Committee, To Our Friends

Both “friend” and “free” come from the same Proto-Indo-European root, “*preyH-,” meaning “fondness.” Every time we inheritors of that archaic tongue speak about freedom or friendship, we invoke the other as a silent companion, dogged and loyal. A little like Animal Collective’s “Derek” — “you’d like him when he’d keep up along your side.”

Some of the best songs curls up alongside you like “Derek.” Panda Bear knows this. So it’s not a surprise that the convivial embrace of A Day with the Homies makes no exception to the warm tones and shaggy intimacy of his previous releases. Treating us, his fawning listeners — Who else would buy a vinyl-only record from him at this point? — as friends, as the sleepy protagonist of “New Town Burnout,” Mr. Noah “lift[s] this weight” of a couple years of absence, “take[s our] shoes off / take[s our] coat off,” letting us settle in, reminding us that we are, once more, “at home.”

A Day with the Homies is a generous record, littered with gestures of friendship. The music is pleasant and simple, the melodies nurturing and whole. Panda Bear is spending time with his influences and his past selves here. It’s like No Reservations without Anthony Bourdain or the profanity, but just as sumptuous and delicious. We find Panda waving toward playground patty cake on “Flight,” jamming with his psychedelic forebears on the whammier sections of “Part of the Math,” saluting to Orbital with the bounce of “Sunset,” and of course nodding to the folks. Panda Bear has always nursed a knack for melody, but A Day with the Homies in particular feels like a study in fondness. It initiates a bond and grabs hold.

Sometimes this intimacy toughens into another sort of interpersonal exchange: the punch. Traversing beyond lyrical topos, the punch directs the record as it spins along its physical axis, rerouting Walter Benjamin’s dialectical image into the feed of the auditory. We hear the gut-punch of an anachronistic medium still punching, still capable of rousing affect and dousing space with Panda Bear’s radiant tenor. Like the ruins of the Parisian Arcades upon which Benjamin’s dialectical image coagulated and then — a fugitive of its own facticity — fled, the grooves of Panda’s 12-inch scaffold an architecture of bygone sensualities and sensibilities.

Always intertwining physicality and intimacy, Panda Bear shades in the gap between “a rip in a fantasy” to “sucker punch,” coloring a departure from hymnic onanism to something touching, in as many senses as it can mean. In light of our consumer’s vision dulled by the smooth pastels and inoffensive geometries of streaming platforms, those surfaces shorn of dimension and whittled into flatness and fungible capital, we are told to “open [our] eyes.” To register a topography that exceeds the bland, homogenizing cartography of the stack. To play atop the unmapped exigencies of platform capital terraformed into the bundles and tremors of a vinyl infrastructure. To open our eyes to dimension no longer invisibilized by the slyly authoritarian veneer of a clean UX. A “missile” of Brecht’s beloved Verfremdungseffekt, A Day with the Homies “jolt[s] the viewer, taking on a tactile [taktisch] quality.” Panda Bear’s latest punch rends open Benjamin’s prophesied Spielraum, his layers of harmony welcoming us with familiar and familial timbre.

The freedom we feel is coterminous with the friendship he has offered, with the friendship that might just filiate and filigree elsewhere. Friend and foe, we filch our moments together. Finagling our fleeting forms into fondness, we “nod to the folks / keeping us close” — and, all of a sudden, we’re “free from the yoke.”

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