Moon Panda have only been around for a couple of years, but have already given us some sweet vignettes of dreamy pop to enjoy (See my review for Slow Drive ). An unlikely duo of singer/bassist Maddy Myers and the Danish guitarist Gustav Moltke deliver a strong conceptual vision on Make Well, their latest EP. With airy vocals, muted synth lines and subtle drum machine loops, Moon Panda make a familiar, comfortable sound that lends inspiration from a few areas of contemporary music.
The lead single on Make Well was the aforementioned blissed-out Slow Drive and it’s understandable why they chose it as the first peek to this EP; with its minimalism and standard structure, Slow Drive was born for radio play. But the latest single is Rick F***in Dalton, the first track on the EP. It’s more representative of the overall mood of the EP. The sound palate is simple, setting the scene with a gentle flow of matched-up guitar and synth, allowing Myers to sit on top of the mix with a prominent vocal take. There’s plenty of room for manoeuvre on this song for her voice, it never struggles to be heard, which is the case front to back on Make Well.
Moltke’s talents are not wasted, as he stamps his imprint on Sirens. First with palm-muted notes accented by jazzy stabs, he then lets fly after each chorus with a fuzzy solo. Moments like this are scattered across Make Well. They keep you from sinking too far into the dreamscape. The textural interplay between the harsh sound of the effects-laden guitar and Myers’ softened voice makes for a balanced listening experience. Sirens ends with a building soundwall, straying into classic Krautrock territory for a grand finish to one of the highlights.
Myers’ voice would do well in an acoustic set. She has enough versatility and power to carry herself in the sparsest of environments, as can be heard on It’s Nothing. This song could have done with being more stripped-back. The steady picking of the intro suggests a quiet respite from the full-band feel of the other tracks, however the instrumentation builds quickly. The slower pace of this tune makes it dreary at its peak, which is a shame as Myers offers her best lyrical moments here. She expresses grief and melancholy in loss, in a succinct and powerful way – “It’s nothing like I thought it was – Everything changes when you lose someone.” This is at once delicately sad and raw.
The Make Well EP closes with Milky Way. The acoustic guitar, slow handclaps and whispery vocals give this tune a folky vibe. The lyrics are less lucid, Myers muses “Everybody’s talking ‘bout the moon, and how we went upon it too soon,” to make for a refreshing departure from the rest of the songwriting on Make Well. Myers and Moltke link up nicely to cover this style, and even though it’s markedly different from the rest of the EP, it doesn’t feel out of place as an outro.
It’s stimulating to consider the different offerings here; Moon Panda show that they’re capable of expressing moods with consistency across different genres. They’d likely expand this repertoire on a full LP, so here’s hoping that’s in the works. For now though, we can enjoy this accomplished EP from a duo who bring far more than the sum of their parts.