Thrusting forth with a percussive force as strangely chaotic as the distorted guitars are, and yet supporting a harmony that is both straightforward and ideally matched with the lyrics at hand, “Cmyk” is one of the more complicated and seamless songs on Panda Riot’s new album Extra Cosmic, but not the only thinking person’s rock number on the record.
If anything, Extra Cosmic is defined by a lot of imaginative concepts and arrangements, from gushing groove anthems like “Future Shock” to the psychedelic indie rock of “Technicolor,” with texture-powered pieces like “Echelon” and the title track sprinkled in for good measure, and I wouldn’t say it was designed this way for longtime listeners alone. There’s actually greater flexibility to this material than I was expecting after going back through the Panda Riot discography and analyzing where they’ve been prior to this latest venture, and one could even say that this is the most accessibly created work for the mainstream audience they’ve recorded thus far – with one major caveat, of course. Nothing in “1000%,” “E.S.P.,” “Royal Blue Skies,” or any other song in this record sounds like it was made for the mainstream market specifically, which is not normally the case in an LP as easy to get into as this one is.
Texture is one of the most important attributes that Extra Cosmic has going for it, and there isn’t a song in the first or second halves of the tracklist that doesn’t have a certain raised quality I wouldn’t normally expect to get out of a rock release of any genre right now. “Remote Viewing” and “Glitterati” practically jump out of the speakers into the room around us, but more lyrical tracks like the title cut and “Echelon” are able to produce as much fluidity without losing any of their softer, traction-based appeal. Rhythm is as much a key element of interpreting the narratives in Extra Cosmic as any words, hooks, tone, or texture is, but I don’t think any of this content was made with us swinging in mind. It’s a very psychedelic experience, with some of the weightier tunes in the album sounding deliberately stoic during their climaxes as if to get us in the mood for sitting down and devoting as much attention to the detail within the music as possible.
Big guitar lovers and those who just like an alternative rock release that isn’t marred with a lot of predictable camp and lyrical nonsense need to go out of their way to acquire a copy of Extra Cosmic this summer, and in the scope of what Panda Riot has done so far, I think it could be said that this is their all-around best work. They aren’t really showing us anything we didn’t already know about their brand and the aesthetics they’ve been taking influence from since getting started years ago, but what they’re doing with the aforementioned skills is what feels refreshing here. Complete and not devoid of some killer guitar carnage, Extra Cosmic is good listening through and through.