Panda Riot: Northern Automatic Music – album review

Panda Riot ‘Northern Automatic Music’ (Saint Marie Records)
Available now

Panda Riot define their sound as “dreampop from Chicago” – for once a PR strap-line perfectly sets the tone.

Ethereal, swirling, iridescent, gossamer clouds, cinematic…just some of the words used to describe the musical genre affectionately known as shoe-gazing, and after reading Steve Fanning’s review of the post M83 out Team Ghost’s ‘Rituals’ (LTW Review) it would seem we are witnessing a revival of sorts…

‘Northern Automatic Music’ is the first full length release from the Chicago based four piece, a welcome follow up to 2011’s ‘Far And Near’ EP and a clear indication of their continuing evolution down in part to the inclusion of drummer Jose Rodriguez who brings welcome vitality to their previous drum machine induced beats; even the song titles fit snuggly into the blissed out fuzzy noise – opener ‘Amanda In the Clouds’ is awash with humming guitars that offer a sense of urgency and floating over of this the fragile almost lullaby voice of Rebecca Scott, her voice is particularly strong during ‘In The Forest (Some Kind Of Night Fills Your Head)’ which eases off on the fuzzed-out guitar effects and demonstrates that Panda Riot have a strong sense of melody and understand the craft of song-writing all of which draws you into the mist.

‘Serious Radical Girls’ has a gorgeous chorus that drops away to allow subtle keys to glisten; the instrumental ‘Golden Age’ with its twinkling tones instantly evokes images of a fragile sun breaking through the darkness, whereas ‘Black Pyramids’ has a more aggressive strident tone, briefly dropping away before the layers of guitar build to an apex, it’s all fluttering rhythms and enchanting jangly guitar effects on the instrumental ‘Someday, Someone Will Wake You From This Nightmare’.

‘Good Night, Rich Kids’ instantly reminds me of Ladytron, in fact Ladytron crossed with a toned down My Bloody Valentine is an ideal reference point, though it must be emphasised that Panda Riot have been able to craft their own distinctive sound, and have created an album that seems to adapt to your own mood, be it exaltation or melancholy ‘Northern Automatic Music’ will reward.

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Phil Newall is 47, from The Wirral - he earns his living not writing about music nor playing music...though sorely wishes he could. He was fortunate enough to see many of the first generation punk bands when they played the U18's matinee shows at Eric's, Liverpool. As an attendee at Eric's he was exposed to punk rock, dub reggae, art rock, and all manner of weirdness; as a customer at Probe Records he was variously served and scowled at by Pete Wylie and Pete Burns - he has written for Record Collector, Whisperin & Hollerin, and Spiral Scratch and wanted to write a book detailing the Liverpool punk scene; however with 'Head-On' Julian Cope beat him to it...and frankly did a much better job.


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