The question, “How could he do that to her?”, asked amid overpowering and ominous synth noise, opens Gold Panda’s new Trust EP. The loops encroach on the barely audible dialog, setting a dark tone that lasts just a little over a minute. Shortly after comes the answer: “Maybe she tried to stop him”. It gets lost along with the remaining dialog in a storm of industrial buzz. This is the “Trust Intro” which seems more than a little out of place on an EP of four tracks which otherwise feel generally positive in nature.
Trust is the first EP by the Essex-based artist since his first full length Lucky Shiner came out on Ghostly International in 2010. Ghostly have been haunting our record collections with an increasing frequency lately. They seem to be signing more and more artists who like to take risks with electronic music and, fortunately for them, these risks seem to routinely pay off. What is offered up in this brief display of production prowess is no exception. Seemingly ignoring the introduction laid down by the opening skit, the title track kicks off with a cymbal and clap house groove which grabs your attention and sets up a foundation upon which you anticipate something being built. Not far in, we hear a series of haunting horns which darken the mood somewhat but resist ever sounding too brooding. There is an overall feeling of hopefulness as the singular baritone vocal sample continues to beckon you to “Trust”.
During the vocal breaks we’re treated to some keyboard and electronic woodwind melodies which lead us back into the deep bass. the patterns repeat while light use of atmospheric samples trickle in randomly, giving it all a feeling of lively progression. At no point does the simple and dull thump of the kick drum lose its momentum. This won’t fill any dance floors but it will certainly quicken your pace as you lose yourself in your headphones.
“Burn-out Car in a Forest” is quicker still, building a dance rhythm on top of some rather abstract noise samples and stock claps. It takes a lot longer to build, but when it does finally deliver the groove it’s enough to hook you. Though somewhat more repetitive than “Trust”, the same elements make up the structure of the track. The horns are generally more simplistic and the loops seem to work better collectively, leaving any semblance of a break sounding better off avoided. Instead, Gold Panda keeps the shuffle going for the entire six minutes of the track and the movement is measured more in a repeating series of claps and horn tones for most of that time. Overall it’s not as enjoyable as “Trust”, but it’s still a pleasurable listen.
By far the most rewarding track on the EP is “Casyam_59#2”. It went straight into my heavy rotation playlist and it set up a mood better than the title track. I suspect anyone who is a fan of Aphex Twin’s Richard D. James album will hear similarities here — perhaps even influence. The very simple organ notes sound innocent and playful, lighting up the low buzzing bass line like fireflies on a dark path. The kick and tom drums which make up the percussion are slightly glitched and distorted, giving the whole thing an otherworldly sound, and granting the overall experience a damaged but recovering feel. It’s a warm record.
There is said to be a new full length to follow Trust in the coming months, although at the time of this writing the details are sketchy. If this EP is in any way a harbinger for what’s to come, I think Gold Panda is setting himself up for a very memorable sophomore LP. Trust in that.