The debut from Jane, an experimental noise/dance duo comprised of prolific Animal Collective noise-maker Panda Bear (Noah Lennox to his mom) and his former colleague from the New York record store Other Music, Scott Mou, is an obscure record thriving on aesthetics and, at times, verging on pretension. According to Panda Bear’s remarkably cute, lower-case bio, Berserker was inspired by “stomps and shouts and claps and stuff like that.” He goes on to say they wanted to do “something with less 0s and 1s and more souls.”
Though it’s an entirely different project, Lennox’s work with the Animal Collective is a useful reference point for understanding Berserker. As anyone who has studied the group’s discography knows, Animal Collective has had a varied output that spans from folk-drenched silliness to primal rhythms. Jane’s Berserker evokes a textured surrealism that is most similar to Animal Collective’s 2003 full-length, Here Comes the Indian. But where Here Comes the Indian built its noise to bursts of energy, Berserker thrives on subtle arrangements that typically sprawl across ten-minute periods.
And one thing becomes increasingly clear after listening to the album’s four tracks — Berserker is not a dance record grounded in hip-hop or modern electronica. It is by nature an atmospheric exploration of noise sometimes centered on thumping beats that could incite its freakiest listeners to shake a leg. But the “danciest” tracks of the record (“Agg Report” and “Slipping Away”) do not account for even half of the sixty-minute running time. The album’s self-titled opener focuses on Lennox’s angelic singing, and the closer, “Swan,” is nearly twenty-five minutes of organ hum and field noises.
Like all Paw Tracks releases, Berserker is impossible to categorize. A swirling jumble of hushed noise and simple rhythms, there are many layers to discover through close listens. But discovering the lushness of its oddity can be an exhausting pursuit.