Saturday, 26 November 2011

Gold Panda - Lucky Shiner

In 2009 Gold Panda created a joyous, oriental track with 'Quitter's Raga'. It was under two minutes long and hit you like a ton of bricks, the track finished before you could understand what was going on. The obvious eastern influence was heard through the use of Indian instrumentation, not to mention the name 'Gold Panda'. Upon hearing Lucky Shiner, I was curious to see how he would keep things fresh. I expected the album to be very clear and simplistic, much alike Four Tet's release There Is Love In You from January 2010.

This is what we call EDM... Electronic Dance Music. Gold Panda's main instrument is his Akai sampler, which he used to edit, pitch shift and reinvent pieces of music which are both nostalgic and unusual for this setting. Where other artists sample commercial music, Gold Panda thrives to take the unknown and bring it to a wider audience. His raw, glitch sounds create a fortified atmosphere which other artists in the same genre crave. 

You is a very energetic start to the album, with a fast, heavy beat and samples percussion instruments aching to be heard by the listener. But it's drowned out by the vocal sample, which reads.. You you you you you you you you you you, me me me me me me me me me, me me me me. He samples a delightful synthesized brass instrument which I'm not 100% certain on, but it sounds great. This track introduces Gold Panda's sound and it's one of the stronger tracks on the album.

Everything sounds perfect when listening to Vanilla Minus. It's pieced together like a puzzle, samples flying left right and centre. The dynamics are really something to look for on this track, it doesn't just build up, it actually goes places and takes different directions. The initial beat is astounding, very tribal and extremely repetitious, yet fresh. This track is a definite highlight on the album, I heard him play it live earlier this year (July 2011) at Latitude and it lasted twice as long as the four minute studio version. People were enjoying themselves, that was the main aspect of his show. It was early in the morning, it was rainy, it was cold and people still managed to find the energy to dance. This music just gets your body moving.

Parents is a short acoustic guitar track, which features rain forest ambiance. It doesn't exactly take off as such, the guitar work is very plain and it isn't repetitive or displeasing to hear. The focus is on the atmosphere created with the predominately left sounding guitar work and the right soundscapes. Same Dream China is different to say the least. The opening percussion sample is looped and placed to the left, making room for a lighter beat on the right. The samples come in quickly and leave just as a different sample comes into action. It's very stop start here, glitchy to say the least.

After the opening four tracks, I expected things to go sour and turn against his so far, so good debut album. I was surprised to hear variations within his music, sure he has the same song structures. On top of that, the beats all follow the same time frame, with very little change other than some different effects. Before We Talked is simply catchy. The beat is much more impressive and we hear some bass at different points. All the samples come and go, but the track doesnt drag on, like others. Snow & Taxis is one of the tracks which does drag, which is unfortunate because I rather like the string samples and messy vocal which is heavily effected. 

Marriage is possibly the strongest individual track. I rate it among the best because it sounds so raw, yet everything is refined. The samples are very melodic and the beat is all over the place. This isn't a bad thing, because everything flows so well together. Beats are drowned out by the initial sample, whilst other samples like the oriental plucking noise which comes in after the one minute mark. The track doesn't take off, it's just very melodic.

Some tracks are very predictable, once you've heard the first 20 seconds, you know how it's going to end. Once you've heard it, you've heard it, nothing grabs your attention. Tracks like After We Talked are very passive, nothing remarkable or interesting happens. It's the same with I'm With You But I'm Lonely. The repetitious beat sticks out, not very exciting to hear when the whole album is basically one long piece of sampled material with some simplistic beats.

Lucky Shiner is an outstanding album, the samples are all comprehensive. Tracks like You and Vanilla Minus really stand out, but the overall quality of material is shattered by a small number of tracks which don't shine. Gold Panda can improve as an artist and release a clearer, improved album with better structure. Song structure is really lacking here, samples come and go and you don't know where you are on a song because everything is looped and withdrawn, then introduced and looped again. It's a good technique, but it can get very repetitive.


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