Music

Gold Panda: Good Luck and Do Your Best

Gold Panda turns a trip to Japan into a synaesthetic sensory experience in his latest LP.


Gold Panda

Good Luck and Do Your Best

Label: City Slang
US Release Date: 2016-05-27
UK Release Date: 2016-05-27
Amazon
iTunes

Compared to other texture-obsessed electronic artists, Gold Panda's sound seems strangely organic, as if he hunts down and captures the sonic phenomena in his tracks rather than engineering them in the studio. Arrayed next to the churning drone-house of the Field, the hip-hop esotericism of Nosaj Thing, and the voraciously experimental beat-making of Flying Lotus, the London-based producer's approach seems more naturalistic, grounded in earth, even elegantly empirical; this is an artist attuned to the subtle beauty of certain sounds taking shape and seizing vitality, growing from bytes of pitch, volume, and waveform data into living, breathing things. During some moments, you can almost sense him opening his hands and releasing these sounds into the aural ecosystem he's cultivated. On Good Luck and Do Your Best, his first full-length since 2013's darkly kaleidoscopic Half of Where You Live, this elemental aesthetic seems more prominent than ever. These songs contain more than organic qualities. They contain full-fledged organisms, audio-biologies that speed through life stages and gasp for air.

The record opens with "Metal Bird", a wistful, guided-by-the-wind rush of melodic electronica that rides forward with such an effortless momentum that it seems to hypnotize itself. It's a paradox of weight: light as air but replete with emotional gravity, sodden with textural color but nearly vaporous. Sonically, it's molded from the same materials as "You", the stammering standout from 2010's Lucky Shiner. Both tracks are configured around anonymous choral effusions, skipping percussion, lithe, pulsating bass, and a central vocal sample repeated so incessantly that it loses its lexical significance and becomes an irrepressible unconscious tic.

In "You", this vocal sample was a phonetically torqued version of the title pronoun. In "Metal Bird", it's a lush, beautifully rendered articulation of the syllable "bird", so smothered in breath and emotive intensity that it's nearly unrecognizable. Yet while these two samples are fundamentally different in origin, one in reference to a person and one to an animal, they share a common meaning: "bird", transfigured by Gold Panda into a prism brimming with light, becomes another way of saying "you", perhaps a better way of saying "you", a better way of directly addressing and staring down a lover who has completely infiltrated your psyche. At around the 1:35 mark, this sample suddenly drops away and, in the strange pseudo-silence that follows, you can almost feel this stare down take place. Eye to eye, these lovers size each other up, forgetting to breathe but remembering everything that's at stake.

"In My Car", arguably the album's most ambitious and reverie-provoking cut, again finds Gold Panda communicating an intense emotional directness through a heterodox sonic palette. In this case, he reifies this directness through reverb-lacquered choral intonations, sweeping strings, and Eastern instrumental flourishes, best exemplified by the mesmerizing koto ripple-breakdown that begins the song's third act. It's a moment of striking beauty - sudden, razor sharp, and heartrendingly evocative.

Moments like these stem from a 2014 trip to Japan that Gold Panda took to compose "a sight and sound documentary." While this project was eventually discarded, this synaesthetic methodology runs throughout Good Luck and Do Your Best; the sounds here enunciate sights, tactile sensations of wind-in-hair and water-on-skin, the colors of night approaching and daytime giving way. 

"Japan has this light that we don’t get here. It’s hard to explain," Panda said. "You know how L.A. has this dusk feeling - that orange light that makes the place glow, and the neon signs? Well, Japan has this." It's precisely this feeling that suffuses "In My Car": the collapsing-into-itself denouement simulates the experience of this orange dusk being injected directly into your retinas, like it's some psychedelic street drug in a future where natural light is a commodity and neon dominates the visual spectrum.

“Time Eater”, another highlight, plants your feet in the middle of a suspension bridge, faced with the enormity of an open sea and exposed to an ice-cold breeze. Then the bridge’s cables begin to break, one after the other, but very slowly, giving you time to react to the snap-and-release of each individual cable as it devolves from an indispensable architectural component to litter strewn about the water below. It’s a slow-motion collapse concocted out of koto pluckings, hisses of ambience, and crackling electronic percussion, but you’re too preoccupied with the beauty of the chaos to care about the fall ahead.

Better considered as an 11-track experience than a conventional record, Good Luck and Do Your Best is a work of admirable consistency and tonal clarity. Even tracks as different as the club-ready "Chiba Nights" and the ponderous, melodically spare "I Am Real Punk" feel bound together by a sense of time, place, and mood. Indeed, all of these songs seem to plant your feet in a new setting where humans fade into the background and sound-organisms dominate. Once there, it's a hard setting to leave.

8


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.