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Gold Panda: Lucky Shiner

img  Tobias Fischer

Lucky Shiner, the first LP by UK-based producer Gold Panda, is a wonderful conglomerate of nostalgia, textural experimentation, and heavy, propulsive beats. Mixing organic elements (acoustic guitars, marimba) with video game electronics, vinyl hiss, and an ear for melody too often overlooked in the so-called “Intelligent Dance Music” genre, Lucky Shiner is a varied, masterful album by a musician who clearly understands the history of his art form. 

Opening with the exhilarating earworms “You” and “Vanilla Minus”, Lucky Shiner immediately sets the stage with a yin and yang of the best sounds of 90's rave-scene electronica. The former, a marriage of repetitive, lighthearted high-end synth hooks, thundering beats, and touches of early arcade halls, is about as infectious as dance music gets. The latter, motored by propulsive analog synth stabs bathed in warm hiss, suggests a late night, post-club haze: slowly swirling electronics and the unrelenting pulse of post-dance hypnosis.

This sense of reworking last decade's dance music, through the lens of a musician informed by the worldliness of the present, serves as the common thread connecting the album. Much of Gold Panda's brilliance is in his injections of paradoxically unexpected but familiar textural elements. “Same Dream China” is part Steve Reich tape-phase composition, part club music. “Parents” is 2 minutes of a strummed acoustic guitar over a backdrop of chirping birds. But these elements don't come across as divergent. Rather, they seem a perfectly natural addition to the individual songs and to the album as a whole. Only in retrospect or analysis does it occur to you that there's anything particularly abstract or texturally unusual about the music.

“I'm With You But I'm Lonely” layers flutters of hand percussion over quasi-Eastern Yogic sound pads, and shifts between oscillating, sustained chords to brilliantly textured soundscapes of mallet percussion, reversed cymbals and dated synth sounds. The last third of “India Lately” uses a detuned, tape-melting take on Bollywood orchestral music as a gateway to buzzing drones and ecstatic, arhythmic drumset explosions. 

Lucky Shiner is a perfect blend of a forward-looking, relatively new voice on the scene, and the retrospection of a producer paying homage to those who came before him. Gold Panda's work is full of surprises that sound perfectly natural, cross-cultural juxtapositions, and a never-ending blend of hypnotics that never quite suck you in  long enough to blur over the producer's nuanced touch.

By Hannis Brown

Homepage: Gold Panda
Homepage: Ghostly International Records

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