Ever since Burial unleashed Untrue into the ears of those who knew nothing about dubstep, much less its many incarnations, there has been a delightful explosion of broken beauty in the electronic beats emanating from London town. Many have attempted to imitate the musical and emotional depth achieved by Burial, but few have developed an aesthetic that reflects Burial’s but is wholly their own. Now, to say London producer Gold Panda is a direct progenitor of Burial’s UK garage-inflected dubstep would be naïve, but what Gold Panda has achieved on his debut LP for Ghostly International is nearly as captivating, nuanced, and realized.
It’s been just over a year since Gold Panda stood dubstep critics and fans on their heads with his gorgeous, withholding song “Quitter’s Raga”. Clocking in at just under two minutes, “Quitter’s Raga” displayed Gold Panda’s masterful sampling technique as well as his love for Japanese and Southeast Asian music and culture. Building the track around the majestic sounds of the Japanese koto, the song skips and jumps, edging closer and closer to breaking apart, but ends before it can. The beat structure in “Quitter’s Raga” recalls dubstep’s swing as it eases into a half-time progression, but Gold Panda has refrained from keeping this structure in his latest work, and to great effect.
Lucky Shiner (the affectionate nickname for Gold Panda’s grandmother) is Gold Panda’s first full-length LP and succeeds with an arresting and astonishing collection of sounds, imaginary places, heartache, and celebration. Recorded at his Aunt and Uncle’s rural cottage in Essex, Gold Panda spent two weeks alone, walking their dogs and marinating in a vision of melody and song structure that could be both personal and inviting.
From the track’s opener “You” to the album’s closer, (also titled “You.”), the record is bookended by immediacy and intimacy but travels through genre, place, and time throughout the middle. Songs like “Same Dream China”, or “I’m With You But I’m Lonely” use sounds that manage to conjure a vintage, nostalgic vibe without being heartsick; a xylophone, a Chinese zheng, a cheap Casio from your grandmother.
The strength of the record warrants every track a thorough listen, but it’s songs like “Snow & Taxis” and “India Lately” that are the glue that holds the record together. Each song has expert structure, shimmering melodies, and enough drums and bass to put these songs in the club. It’s safe to say Gold Panda has quickly placed himself in a 2010 roster of excellent records, next to Four Tet, Caribou, and Delorean, all artists who already have depth to their musical catalogs. I only hope Gold Panda won’t get lost in these comparisons, as his productions confidently stand on their own.