Alas, Gold Panda is not the newest member of the Xtreme Justice League but an English producer who specializes in dreamy electronica. Yet the mysticism surrounding his persona would be fitting to an awkward superhero back story. In a nutshell this is his story, so ‘bear’ with me for a moment.
He was born in South-London and raised on the English countryside but eventually left these idyllics for the crowded Japan. In Japan he started to learn the language and pursued an academic degree in Oriental Studies when he returned to London. During his studies he worked various odd jobs that includes one as a sex shop clerk. In his spare hours he tinkered around with a borrowed sampler, experimenting with techno and hip hop which he slowly redefined into a more organic and electronic sound. With this sound he achieved minor successes by composing remixes for Telepathe, Bloc Party and The Field. These small scale projects did however caused an online buzz that was brought to the attention of a few labels.
When he was thirty years old, Gold Panda released his debut album Lucky Shiner (2010) and along the way won prestigious The Guardian First Album Award. Another argument that supports my superhero metaphor is the fact that he is known by the larger public as Gold Panda, but we don’t know his real name. Strangely, more is known about his stage name which is made of his second favorite color and animal. His first choice was Pink Worm, however this was written off for reasons of not being wimpy enough. I really don’t know how the dots in this story can be connected but what I can say is that Lucky Shiner is a wonderful piece of otherworldly electronica that warms my heart each time I listen to it. This month Gold Panda released his sophomore album, Half of Where You Live.
The intro of Half of Where You Live starts off with an East Asian touch that quickly debunks into accessible minimal techno. Although simplicity is not predominantly present, most tracks are stripped down and are complex at the same time. For one, the blunted basslines and easy synth play strongly remind me of the Chicago deep house era in the 1980s. ‘An English House’ and ‘Brazil’ belong to Gold Panda’s most danciest tracks to this date if it had not been for the embedded layered chime loops. The latter undercuts the minimalist intentions and fragments the whole into the rich sound we know from his debut. Even before we are halfway through the album Gold Panda makes a conspicuous choice to shift down the already slow pace. Within ten minutes you’re hypnotized with ambient that directly taps into one’s mind. ‘We Work Nights’ (which is a dedication to anyone who gets paid shit money to work terribly unsociable hours) is sort of a spooky wake up call with a sitar that never really wakes you up. ‘Flinton’ is more bright because of the plain and easy thematized piano play, yet also never breaks free from hypnagogia. This state of mind continues until the end. ‘Enoshima’ will bring you to the onsets of sleep whilst the following track, ‘The Most Livable City’, contains beats which sounds like ‘Flim’ from ’Aphex Twin’ and causes wakefulness to rise again.
Once more Gold Panda displays his craftsmanship by creating emotive and hazy electronica. It’s treat to listen to the repetitive melodies, stuttering beats and hi-hats that are combined with sensual oriental instrumentation. When it comes to the numerous details on the various, Half of Where You Live is an adventurous album and therefore is a decent successor to Lucky Shiner. Nonetheless It can also be said that the new album lacks the dynamisms of Lucky Shiner for it holds the attention just for a short period. Preciseness seems to be the biggest strength but simultaneously is a severe weakness. In many ways the abstractism is pretentious and ultimately could leave you lost within in the half-light. Prospective listeners should be aware that Half of Where You Live contains much space to interpret yourself and therefore is a product that’s reflection of today’s plural society. When setting this aside, I think it’s quite an achievement that within our postmodern society Gold Panda maintains to be relatively anonymous but musically still evokes feelings of highly recognizable warmth.
Label: Ghosly International
- Junk City II (6:34)
- An English House (4:21)
- Brazil (5:46)
- My Father in Hong Kong 1961 (4:03)
- Community (4:33)
- S950 (2:22)
- We Work Nights (5:57)
- Flinton (3:56)
- Enoshima (3:56)
- The Most Liveable City (4:31)
- Reprise (3:27)