Monday, October 25, 2010

Lucky Shiner - Gold Panda

Lucky Shiner

Gold Panda
Ghostly International.

SCQ Rating: 79%

This summer’s remix-heavy You EP, although enjoyable primarily for its few original tracks, seemed incapable of telling us what Gold Panda was really about. Sure, the title track suggested a beatsmith with the melodic ear of Four Tet while ‘Peaky Caps’ and ‘Killing Yourself On a Beach’ obsessed themselves with micro-house tinkering, but Lucky Shiner illustrates a much more thorough outline of Gold Panda’s strengths and intentions. ‘You’, which prefaces this debut full-length no differently than that cloaked EP, remains the poppiest effort here, but it’s a sugary appetizer compared to Lucky Shiner’s heady bulk.

That opener’s milking of repetition sounds elementary once ‘Vanilla Minus’ peppers over the speakers like a millisecond of Detroit techno spliced and thrown off-axis into an oscillating synth-line. Samples are incorporated patiently, not so patiently as to snowball into eight-minute decadence, but subtle enough for these disparaging pieces to fit snugly within half the time. Imagine hearing the euphoria of The Field but without Axel Willner ever coasting; that’s the Gold Panda M.O. That adventurous take on The Field’s love of repetition inspires a handful of other highlights here, from the stabs of trance like passing headlights on ‘Snow and Taxis’ to the bending momentum of ‘Marriage’’s club-hook.

Perhaps it’s because Gold Panda’s focus on textures tend to override the presence of any prominent bass, but Lucky Shiner – despite its BPM earnings – isn’t made for the dance-floor. Surrounding those upbeat bouts of jubilation are less concrete permutations of electronic songwriting, resulting in the micro-note armies behind ‘I’m With You But I’m Lonely’. The split duo of ‘Before We Talked’ and ‘After We Talked’ stray further from Lucky Shiner’s breathtaking first half; the former would’ve fared better sticking to its morning ambience undertow than tacking a hokey half-melody on top, and the latter track never gathers enough steam to jump beyond its sluggish core.

At Lucky Shiner’s optimal, Gold Panda motions electronic-pop toward a threshold that’s equally melancholic and joyous, with a technique both tender and visceral. ‘Same Dream China’ and ‘India Lately’ even advance his nonchalant approach to worldly influences by pitting deft beats against timeless organic instruments which, sampled or not, deepen the beauty of this collection. It’s certainly one of the better electronic records this year, but I wholeheartedly believe Gold Panda will top this sometime stunning but unbalanced debut.

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