Shifting, shimmering mini-scores wracked with emotional subtlety and unexpected warmth.
Reef Younis 2010-10-15
If every good story needs a beginning, middle and an end, can it be applied to albums too? In a world where albums flit between holding cells for a conveyor belt of singles and grandiose depictions of a concept no-one but the artist understands, it’s a medium to be experimented with. At your own peril, obviously.
It’s a storytelling mantra Gold Panda has taken to heart, book-ending Lucky Shiner with disparate versions of You. And from the clumsy, dreamy chimes of its opening incarnation to its dramatic, operatic closing counterpart, this is an album wrought with personality: 11 pulsing, shifting, shimmering mini-scores wracked with emotional subtlety and unexpected warmth.
After the contained success of a Bloc Party remix and booming eclecticism of his own Quitters Raga single, Gold Panda’s ascent has been fairly rapid. From a similarly glistening school of skittering percussion and soothing electronic dynamics as Kieran Hebden, his understated experimentation, laconic loops and earthy vinyl crackles equate to a compelling debut.
With the express intent of "writing songs with structure", there’s clarity sidling alongside short, clean bouts of energy. Take the ricocheting, tantrum percussion of I’m With You but I’m Lonely or the marching drum build-up and big beats of Snow and Taxis – elements complemented by iridescent synth-driven dynamics that give the tracks a gorgeous urgency.
But for all of the contrasting, resonating brushstrokes, it’s in the modest isolation of Same Dream China and wordless Parents that drops you into a void of introspection. Delicately insistent xylophone and understated percussion evoke buried imagery of grainy, sepia-tinged family albums, super-slow-motion shots of raindrops hitting leaves and effortlessly aloof walks through rain-soaked, neon-lit streets of home. It’s a theme of beautiful, contented loneliness that does much more than inform Lucky Shiner; it permeates throughout; seeping through granular beats and crystalline blankets of melody; dwelling on the dreamy swathes or purposefully moving with every punctuated drumbeat.
Where there are no words, there are rampaging thoughts, and Lucky Shiner is an album designed to provoke and instigate. It might mean looking a little further inward but there’s always been a cold comfort in talking to yourself. Especially if you enjoy your own company the way Gold Panda does.