2022, Reviews

#PanderMonkey 🇺🇸 Pander Monkey

Band: Pander Monkey
Title: Pander Monkey (EP)
Label: Independent
Release Date: 28 June 2022
Country: USA
Format Reviewed: Digital Download

What exactly is a Pander Monkey and how would we identify one in the wild? Perhaps the Pander Monkey of this eponymous four-track EP would have to answer such riddles himself. What can be deduced from this debut release is that the call of the pander monkey is one rich in shimmering guitar textures. By turns melancholic, soothing and unsettling, it’s an often understated call, but one that has some tricks and surprises up its sleeve.

Can a monkey have a sleeve?

Pander Monkey is in fact one Michael Mansour, singer and multi-instrumentalist. Whether the global pandemic had an impact on these tracks they certainly feel fitting of the times. A haunted, weary haziness is a thread through this 23 minute EP, like walking through a mist.

A mist with very cool, glistening guitar tones.

Daylight Paralysis” offers a subdued opening. Spidery guitars scuttle along languidly like beatles made dozy under the heat of the sun, while Mansour mournfully croons, trapped in a sleep that the sun can’t penetrate.

Guitar lines flow like shards of ice in “Mimic”. A highlight of the record, the track is awash in textures somewhere between Radiohead and shoegaze black metal, as gentle passages alternate with occasional heavier noise rock blasts that come and go in bursts.

Piano accompanies languid guitar melodies on “Wet Asphalt”, the track at times hinting at a less overtly demented Mr. Bungle in their California calipso phase, before spiraling, distorted guitars, rich textures and a final solitary piano line somehow invokes Elbow (if Trent Reznor was sitting in on the keys).

With something of the sparkling psychedelia of Meat Puppets and a refrain that evokes Jeff Buckley with its solemn echoing guitars, closing instrumental “Precarious” also features an unexpected dissonant break that brings to mind a rusty android on a ventilator. You’ll understand when you hear it.

As well as Mansour’s fluid guitar lines the EP is held together by a deft layering of instrumentation. The tracks never feel overly busy, but never empty either, as violins, percussion, samples and overlapping guitars interweave.

Though Mansour shows his hand as a guitar player first and foremost by pushing his vocals back in the mix, his often hushed croons are a valuable addition and his lyrical concerns fittingly melancholic.

Just as the music has its bursts of dissonance and aggression, so too the vocals, with occasional shouts, screams and howls — not to mention the ghoulish lyrical concerns of “Mimic”.

Varied, but cohesive, languid, brooding and atmospheric, the Pander Monkey EP listening experience very much fits the visual impression of its cover art — often delicate, but with sharp claws, somewhat otherworldly and slowly emerging from the darkness. 7.5/10 Tom Osman

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