Essex, England based Mad Panda, formed in 2016 is comprised of its two founding members Sid & Zac. The project concerns itself with influences that range from 60’s psychedelia to modern Australian psyche rock. They play all the instruments and record in Zac’s basement, which he calls “TheCave”. After the release of their debut album “Deeper Shallow”, they quickly bounced back with their sophomore 11 track project, entitled “The Garden Party”. The new album has all the poppy, incandescent guitar tones and beautiful, eerie melodies that so successfully frequented their debut but are even more the band accessible. The new record does away with the some of the melancholic ambience they experimented with on their last album. Instead, Mad Panda have crafted an offering that refrains from being simply a banal imitation of the past. “The Garden Party” captures a refreshed outfit effortlessly crafting deep atmospheres and trance-like dream pop qualities with a unique nod to their past influences.
The two opening tracks, “Blue Girl” and “Another Persona”, quickly set the mood and tone of the recording, and feature the angelic high register vocals over a shimmering, dreamy canvas and subtle but steadfast drumming. Behind the sensory overload of textures, these tracks are structured around excellent pop hooks.
They can swallow an entire room with the warmth of a lullaby such as “Another Persona”. The falsetto vocals and jangly guitar combines to deliver as much charm as ever. And though these cuts are easy to single out, the album largely works as one engulfing sound, with all eleven tracks weaving together for a seamless and blissful daze.
By the time you hit the more insistent “My Horses Lucky Penny” and “In&Out” it becomes clear that the surface-level simplicity of the songs only serve to highlight how unobtrusive and smooth they are as experimental songwriters.
Their best moments feel sort of like daydreaming, while linking together fragmented emotions and shattered scenes with translucent chord progressions and an impenetrable reverb mist. Their lyrical images also follow the same kind of slippery logic. The surreal imagery pile higher until, until you can extract an explanation.
All across the album gorgeous melodies and perfectly executed guitar motifs create an immersive wall of sound that integrate beautifully with the electronic elements, offering sparkling results. “She Fears the Rhythm”, is spellbinding, welcoming newcomers to Mad Panda’s beautiful sonic wonderland, which if it had a descriptive name, would be called ‘Ecstasy’.
Any Mad Panda fan knows that there is hardly any empty space in the band’s music. Their echoing and blurry melodies go on for miles while vocals and rhythms always seem to sink into their neighboring sounds. This phenomena is evident on “Trippy Swing”.
A brief, and expected break, comes in the form of “In Search of the Ulterior Mind”, which forges a tremendously hypnotic bass line melody, and could have gone on forever on my part. Each of the album’s songs has a separate impact, inviting you on a winding journey deeper and deeper.
The beauty of the band’s style is that it lets you get lost in all the effects-laden fog and then — when that one undeniable riff or sudden loop or soaring melody hits, it hits all the harder. So when you encounter the dominant piano on “JustLike Glue” or the funky rhythm of “Huzzah”, you’re forced sit up and listen carefully.
At their best, Mad Panda is as good at making your imagination soar as they are at conjuring intimate, insular places. “The Garden Party” is the sound of a band forgetting what the conventional boundaries of music currently are, and embracing what it could become with enhanced kinetic motion and creative flux.