Panda Bear and Sonic Boom

Panda Bear and Sonic Boom at Studio 9294 review | Creative kindred spirits

Panda Bear and Sonic Boom revelled in the joyous spirit of their collaborative psych-pop album Reset at Hackney’s gem of a venue, Studio 9294.


Panda Bear and Sonic Boom at Hackney’s Studio 9294. If you think that all sounds a bit niche, you’re not wrong.

Fact is, my claim to the Pretentious Hall Of Fame is that my first physical record – on CD no less – was Panda Bear’s Tomboy. Rich in atmospherics, it funnelled fuzzy guitar through a Korg M3 synthesiser, creating layers of noise that combined with the Animal Collective co-founder’s choral beckoning. It’s a thing of beauty.

Tomboy also just so happened to be produced by Peter Kember, aka Sonic Boom, after Panda Bear (real name Noah Lennox) thanked Sonic Boom’s psychedelic alt-rock outfit Spacemen 3 in the liner notes for his previous 2007 album, Person Pitch. The pair have been friends ever since and even both currently live in Portugal.

Panda Bear and Sonic Boom

Photo: Ian Witchell

Last year, the most fruitful product of their creative kinship arrived, with the breezy psych-pop collaborative album Reset. Most of us baked bread or picked up a guitar during lockdown, only to now have dropped either pastime. Reset, however, is a project built to last – in many ways because of how rooted it is in nostalgia.

By using a sound that harks back to the doo-wop of the ‘60s, encased in contemporary electronica, there’s an upbeat sense of timelessness to it all; an ode to better days gone by. With whistles aplenty from Sonic Boom, and those same wailing-into-the-void vocals from Panda Bear, this peppy, carefree spirit was there to be soaked in at the relatively intimate venue.

Kember’s opening introductory words were minimal. “This is Panda Bear, I am Sonic Boom, and we’re going to be playing from our album.” Each clause was inevitably met with a cheer. He needn’t have said any more; if you found yourself at this fine Hackney establishment on a Thursday evening, chances were you knew exactly what for.

Playing Reset in its entirety, from start to finish, it was a sound that ultimately had you melt into its electronic murmurs. The duo looked made for each other – no more so than during their joint, metronomic clapping on track ‘Everyday’. Panda Bear largely held down vocals, whilst Sonic Boom flanked him with a deep, distorted baritone and whatever technical addition was required.

Reset Panda Bear Sonic Boom

Both in turn were perched over their keys in front of a projector that displayed the album’s multi-coloured jigsaw artwork. Occasionally, an animated figure appeared, which resembled a Chemical Brother’s set visual, only rather than being for e-loving ravers, this figure was for all-loving shroom-heads.

This deft touch glazed the whole show, as we segued from dreamy ‘In My Body’ into ‘Whirlpool’, in which the pair’s voices support the weight of each other, Lennox repeating “down, down, down, down, down” every step of the way behind Kember.

Of course, for such storied underground artists, it would be amiss for neither to play from their own catalogues when members of such a cult fan base had turned out. This thirst would of course be quenched, thankfully, starting with Sonic Boom’s sci-fi lullaby ‘Just a Little Piece of Me’.

There were no Tomboy tunes to be had, but the two Person Pitch tracks played – the wailing album opener ‘Comfy In Nautica’ and the jangly ‘Bros’ – were a sweet ode to the album in which Lennox had paid tribute to Kember all those years ago, which had sparked this double act of creative kindred spirits.

Ultimately, this was two friends, free in their expression with each other, celebrating the choppy underground artist paths they’ve both trodden over the years.

Yes, Panda Bear and Sonic Boom at Hackney’s Studio 9294 might sound a little niche – a Central Saint Martins art project, sponsored by BBC Radio 6 Music, writ large – but sometimes that’s no bad thing. (And if it adds to anyone’s claim to the Pretentious Hall of Fame, then all the better for it).

Leave a Reply

More like this