Pander Sera’s debut album is called Bothy. The title should give hint of what to expect. Puns, double-meaning, and singular things that can occupy more than a one place or meaning. Released on Mateo Sound the tonal quality is pop, but it’s also not pop. It’s something that reaches further, and is set to endure. All the urgency of pop culture is here, and the eagerness for radio play is hinted at throughout the sequence.
The collection of ten tracks is the product of experimentation, and years of bedroom recording work. However, there’s no sense that scale or ambition was reduced. The sonic range of this album is huge. Sera expands almost every element – stretching vocals with layered tracks, call-and-answer choruses. But wait; there are very few overdubs, and most of this stuff has been recorded over a series of live takes. So honesty is not only preserved, but celebrated.
Beats drop to such depth they feel bottomless. When kit-work occurs, like on ‘Gazebo’ the percussive elements offer a dissolving structure. It drives, it splashes – it morphs as it moves. The synth work pushes all the walls further apart. The dance floor grows in scale. This is club adjacent stuff. Reflective passages oscillate and generate their own moments of light. All things here are particle and wave. It’s clever, but it’s also devoid of pretense – and so the result is a fresh-sounding bed for the issues that Pander Sera cares to address.
A Bothy is a natural shelter found in the wilderness. It’s a smart title for an album that addresses issues of personal solace. Pander Sera moves through depression, desperation, isolation. But there is also love, comfort, and the kind of spiritual uplift that’s only offered when a soul is afforded space beyond construct and expectation. For all the shade that we experience, darkness is never projected with tiresome minor-progressions, or over-angsty lyrics. Pander Sera simply notices, and allows us to notice here is a thing that is happening, and it’s not right. A track like ‘Gulch’ shows a deep cut in the natural face of things. It’s dark and unsettling. But the darkness is articulated in a way that’s surprising, and also somehow beautiful. Again, nothing is ever only one thing.
Lyrically, Sera explores the power of communion. Items are offered up like peace offerings. To confront issues, or people, doesn’t always mean to combat them with force. There’s a maturity of vision here that’s always surprising to hear on a debut. ‘Mascot’, for example addresses the comforts we project onto offerings – and the solace we find through the meanings we eke out of emptiness.
Littered through this sequence of mainly one-word titles, (‘Reset’, ‘Stare’, ‘Gulch’, ‘Barren’, ‘Thorns’,… etc. etc.) are audio clips from family home movies and field recordings from Pander Sera’s neighborhood. There’s a poignancy to these intimate, yet ambient sounds. We all become tied to associative memory. It’s a smart device, and like everything on the album, it’s deployed with good sense, not as gimmick or prop.
The quality of Bothy lies in the untellable. Experimentation offers it’s own reward, but it doesn’t always produce listenable work. Pander Sera not only delivers a highly infectious, affecting album. It’s a remarkable bit of art. Vital stuff.
HURRY – BUY – PANDER SERA MUSIC