Panda Rosa/ Prizes Roses Rosa

(Copyright © 2023 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Cascades (2015), 4.5/10
Orca (2017), 6/10
Neochina (2017), 5/10
Mother Jungle (2017), 5/10
Dest (2017), 4.5/10
Monastery (2018), 5/10
Bioconcrete (2019), 6/10
Anubis (2019), 5/10
The Kinspiral (2020), 5.5/10
Burned Car Highway Light Volcanic (2023), 6.5/10

Australian singer-songwriter and producer Panda Rosa (real name Benjamin Fitchett) released the five-song EP Loch Ness (2015), the album Cascades (2015) and the mini-album The Opposite Direction (2016) when he was still a teenager. Overall these early lo-fi "bedroom" recordings contain psychedelic-tinged dream-pop tunes, but the child prodigy's progression towards a more complex song format is evident in pieces like the eight-minute Honey a Perfect Example off Cascades.

Orca (2017), a collection of mostly keyboard-based wordless lullabies, represented the first major change and leap forward. It contains the eight-minute blissful shoegazing trance of This Blindfold and the 15-minute Pierce Ash Sky/ Dream City at Night, which is now post-rock with electronic effects.

Neochina (2017) veered dangerously towards the most obnoxious forms of vaporwave while concocting trivial synth-pop atmospheres, and it ends with the fragile nine-minute ambient suite Neochina Skybridge.

Mother Jungle (2017) contains only six compositions, three of them quite long: Fever Dream Song (9:06), New New Constellations (8:19) and Mother Jungle (8:28), each one an atmospheric hodge-podge of styles but weakened by amateurish production.

Singing and percussion remain the weak points on Dest (2017), a wildly etherogeneous collection of generally shorter songs. The austere post-rock suite du jour is the nine-minute In a Decade. But four albums in one year is way too many for what he has to say.

The 72-minute album Monastery (2018) is again a multi-faceted, kaleidoscopic, genre-blending work that tries many different directions at once, from the transglobal fad of the 2000s (Trauma) to cryptic post-rock (North Glass) and to the subdued cosmic voyage of Monastery (14:31). There are intriguing ideas sprinkled on each composition but none stands out. The music is sometimes too ethereal and sometimes too generic. The drumming still constitutes a major weakness.

The 82-minute Bioconcrete (2019), this time credited to "p.rosa", is an album of lush arrangements at the intersection of post-rock, ambient and vaporwave. Extended confused dreamy ballads like Futurist (10:06) and Seeing the Shrine, Feeling its Power (11:14) sound like remixes of Talk Talk and Godspeed You Black Emperor. The easy-listening wallpaper music of The Mezzaluna Girls of Love (11:28) is both more professional and more original. Be Mine Tonight (16:46) is a long dreamy psychedelic fantasia and perhaps the ideal meeting point of all the stylistic undercurrents.

Anubis (2019), now credited to Prizes Roses Rosa, is an album of droning ambient music, notably the 13-minute Evening Sky Dust which has the feeling of a church mass suspended in time (alas, ruined by spoken vocals).

The sprawling, 147-minute The Kinspiral (2020), credited to Prizes Roses Rosa, is frequently yawn-inducing and rarely offers a "wow" moment, but then this could be the whole point. In general, it is a case of "much ado about nothing": Grave Suffering Infinite Questions (15:04) transitions from a tribal rhythm to ethereal vocal harmonies and ends in a circular dance beat; Underneath Your Heavens a Desert Leader Looks Over His Region (13:11) has a trivial cosmic overture that propagates waves of drones into floating vocals; the cinematic atmosphere of A Sure Growth and Hope (13:08) boils down to a dance-pop ballad; The Australian Light (9:25) is impalpable. The worst offenders are The Garden (24:01), whose litany takes forever to rise into something more consistent, and My Understanding of This River (20:54), which sounds a random flow of abused stereotypes. Each has moments of beauty but it would take the effort of many producers to edit it down to more humane dimensions.

Burned Car Highway Light Volcanic (2023), a two-hour album, is a more refined version of the same (confused) ideas. The moronic litanies (Dying, The Brain Misfolds) and Pink Floyd-ian laments (Cutting all my Wires) are just filler. Panda Rosa's specialty is that kind of dance-pop ballad drenched in a chaotic hodge-podge of samples and jamming, like Through (14:18) and Grant (10:51). It's the same routine of the previous albums but here it is crafted with more elegance and this time around there are some winners: the freak-folk hymn Burned Car Highway Light Volcanic (13:45), the ethnic-tinged dance-pop shuffle God Views His Destruction Through The Eyes of Storms (11:19), and the dreamy dance-pop single Always Returning.

Panda Rosa was also active as DJ Cheesehell.

(Copyright © 2023 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )