Post-rock is one of the best and largest niche genres out there. From its headliners, such as Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, to the lesser known This Will Destroy You and others, it’s a genre that has managed to twist and turn itself into a sprawling thing with no discernible borders. This means that there are many, many bands who don’t add much to the genre. All they have to do is throw on a bunch of pedals, play a few power chords, add a few other guitars and they’ve got a post-rock song. Make sure it’s around eight minutes and that there’s no singing and you’ve got a good post-rock song by their standards. The Panda Resistance band defies that notion.
Good music — and good post-rock, for that matter — is music that takes you on a journey. From two-minute songs to ten-minute ones. From rap to lyric-less songs. The absolute extremes on both ends of every musical spectrum — it doesn’t matter. That music that makes you sit back and stare at a wall for an hour is the music that you should have in your life. Art should draw emotion, and what better way to draw emotion than for the artist to make the consumer feel precisely as they do?
Self-described as “triumphant and magical,” “an epic musical journey,” and “[a] euphoric wall of sound,” The Panda Resistance could not be more accurate when discussing their own self-titled debut. Originally self-released in 2009, Tulsa’s own Horton Records seems to have recently re-released the album in a CD digipak format. While post-rock is certainly an amazing and exuberant genre, calling The Panda Resistance’s debut a mere post-rock album is doing it a huge disservice.
The opener, “An Honorable Death,” brings us a slow and longing intro to the album. Melancholy guitar melodies and succinct percussion carry us through the track like a funeral procession.
This album doesn’t stick with one emotion too long, however. The next song begins with a short intro that immediately leads into a cacophony of funk between the drums and bass. The track, “Ebenezer,” has its groove punctuated throughout by a wailing guitar. Much too soon, the song reaches its final movement and the guitar takes on a quality reminiscent of classic emo bands before a playful glockenspiel concludes the track.
Whilst “Ebenezer” is the album’s highest point, the lowest point can be found in “Eagles,” the lengthy ten-minute ballad. Where “Ebenezer” and the other tracks are fun, inventive pieces of music with interesting guitar melodies, funky bass, and downright amazing drum work — “Eagles” acts as a blanket of sound. Nothing is noted too boldly or out of place. The drums stay neutral and the bass keeps the beat. As the song continues, the guitar slowly increases its intensity, losing its soft qualities and taking on a harder aesthetic before the track ends. That being said, “Eagles” is not a bad track — not by any means. It has a nice drone or trance quality to it; something you could fall asleep to or focus with. It’s a good background track but it’s not as immediately endearing as the other tracks.
This album has so much to offer, from the Godspeed You! Black Emperor-inspired “Letting Go For Dear Life” to the songs “Gopher the Golden” and “Lemonade All By Myself” where the only vocals come into fruition, there is nary a dull moment on this record. It was an astoundingly surprising thing to come across and I feel like a better person having done so. After hearing it, I can confirm the self-description — this album is triumphant, magical, an epic musical journey, and a euphoric wall of sound.
The Panda Resistance ends with a short, minute-and-a-half track called “Panda Fight Song.” It’s cute, playful, and takes explicit advantage of the glockenspiel. It’s an absurdly perfect ending to this absolutely inspiring record.