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White Noise: Gold Panda – Lucky Shiner

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Gold Panda – Lucky Shiner

The electro scene is always bursting with artists trying to push their technology and do something which actually sounds different, but the music tends to either go down the route of dance or home-listening. Gold Panda's aesthetic seems to aim for a curious middle ground. His short samples and tech melodies hint at dance music, but the lo-fi fuzz and slow rhythmic variations are more suited to home listening. Throughout this LP he combines an undeniable warmth with brilliant songwriting and composition, and the album just keeps on giving.

The album crackles into existence with the sound of a record being played, and the far off one word vocal sample of You is turned into a beat itself, bursting exuberantly into life. The beats are hard but not overwhelming, and the two vocal samples are weaved together with an expert intricacy that showcases the skill and care that has been put into every track on this LP. He deals in feelings of nostalgia and contemplation, the brief but sweet guitar instrumental of Parents opening with a vocal sample of his own grandmother indicates the often thought-provoking nature of his tracks.

Not all of the tracks are cerebral, however (and even when they are his music is never boring or unsatisfying). Snow & Taxis opens with a propulsive single synth note hammered home with a slight radio fuzz, changing up and then riding beneath a swelling accompaniment and eventually joined by twinkling starlight-synths. The music combines this drive with a hypnotic edge – his samples are always clipped so carefully that there is a feeling imbued of repetition, of memory recurring and decaying, of forgotten sunsets and half-remembered faces. Stellar highlight Marriage is another more powerful track, a recurring synth overlaid with oriental strings and a deep bass that is relentlessly satisfying. The lo-fi textures are expertly implemented throughout the album to give the songs a lush sonic depth.

Although the album is backloaded with more slow, contemplative pieces, Gold Panda doesn't fall into the standard trap of letting the standard slip on an electro LP; these tracks are as exquisitely composed and as endlessly listenable as the more dancey cuts. I'm With You But I'm Lonely builds gloriously slowly from a meandering hazy synth line into an increasingly strong tribal rhythm, and each musical movement occurs at exactly the right point, no melody outstays its welcome or recedes before it has had proper time to shine. Some of the later tracks admittedly can take a little longer to appreciate, but the way some of the slower tracks on the album unfurl is so masterful it would be a crime to just listen to the poppier cuts.

More evidence of Gold Panda's compositional genius can be seen in the very structure of the album; the ebullient opener You is bookended on the other side by the beautiful and fierce longing of the closer, also called You. Elsewhere, effusively catchy Before We Talked is given a sense of continuation in the darker and more complex After We Talked, the straightforward melodies and synths of the first warped into something emotionally very different, a distorted mist of mixed up feelings. More impressively his clipped samples definitely show they have legs in longest track India Lately which travels from a building synth line into a thumping beat before almost collapsing under its own weight and intricacy, decaying into the ether towards the close of the track, with one final and fiery reprieve.

Every track on this album is expertly composed and thoughtfully performed, imbuing the tracks with all the precision and mastery of Aphex Twin alongside a nostalgia and warmth that is entirely Gold Panda's own. Not every track is superb, but this debut album arrives as a fully formed accomplished vision, bursting with life and beauty. A real success.


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