Friday, January 23, 2009

Reviews:: Hot Panda Volcano... Bloody Volcano

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Right out of the gate, Hot Panda hits you with everything they have to offer. The Edmonton outfit – you remember them from our Alberta Mixtape right? – opens their debut LP Volcano... Bloody Volcano with the sonic adventuring of Cold Hands/Chapped Lips. Synths, accordion, crunching guitars and Chris Connelly’s vocals provide the melody and Maghan Campbell’s softer voice leads the listener into the chorus (where you might expect a soaring explosion of strings and cymbal crashes), but the band quickly does an about face and litters the refrain with feedback, texture and static bursts of sound.

It’s easy to see why the band has received countless comparisons to Daniel Johnson, but for me it’s how effortlessly they can add chaos and excitement to catchy hooks without ever losing momentum. Instead of sticking with the British pop invasion or dancey syths and guitar, they are willing to fuse in tons of other influences and textures. Grinding guitars and Keith’s bass slink along on the Brit poppy It’s Worth Eight Dollars and Connelly follows suit with his apathetic, working class vocals but again, they throw a nice change up on the chorus, letting the synth twist and turn and eventually Ashley Roch’s trumpet booms out of the speakers to finish the song.

It’s not often a band manages to balance big risks with the immediate rewards of hook after hook (especially on their first full length), but Hot Panda seems to know exactly when to add new layers and when to rely on the riff that grab your attention. Afraid of the Weather alternates between a simple marching band drum beat and synth laced melody and a more herky jerky chorus, but it’s the heavy horn and guitar surge at the end of the track that forces you to dance and makes you remember the four-minutes fondly.

Hot Panda can craft light, airy melodies (Holes floats by nicely), but Gold Star Swimmer shows they are just as comfortable adding grit to their songs and playing in the darker shadows of the room, especially when Connelly's delivery tenses up and adds drama to the track. Even the little cowbell and distortion of Bullhorn Romance adds depth to the listen and the natural diversity the band presents offers a glimpse of the many styles Hot Panda can expand on in the future.

It's amazing how the band can produce so much energy, but not rely on it. Usually bands need time together to find the right recipe and more importantly, time on the road to make sure the recipe is right for them. Hot Panda has already been coast to coast, watching the odometer turn (they are playing here at Gus' Pub on April 24th) and if Volcano... Bloody Volcano is any indication of what’s in store, I don’t see any signs of them becoming dormant.

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Posted at 9:15 AM by ack :: 0 comments

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