The first official release by the mysterious Gold Panda –few things have been revealed about this Essex youngster, apart from his real name, which is Darwin, and that he spent his entire post-adolescence working behind a few pretty sordid counters– came through Various Production’s label. When Various decide to do you a vinyl –it’s called “Miyamae EP” (2009)–, something is clear: your music is not normal, and it doesn’t adapt to the more predictable registers of the electronica circuit in Great Britain. It doesn’t even need to be dubstep –Gold Panda definitely isn’t, he could even be the complete opposite–, just different. At the time, the three cuts of the 12” sounded vaguely like what Nathan Fake was doing: IDM with pyschedelic techno tendencies, or a kind of microscopic progressive house with shiny melodies and discreet excursions to other continents. As Gold Panda progressed with regards to his technique and his discographic production –he never came back on the Various imprint, but he released “Quitter’s Raga” on Make Mine, founded his own label Notown and now he’s licensed his debut album to Ghostly–, the psychedelica has remained, melodic IDM is still the basis and has grown in ethnic density. He still sounds like Nathan Fake, but a Nathan Fake who travelled the world with a backpack.
Gold Panda’s music sounds enchanting and familiar because what he does doesn’t cease to be a peculiar and very personal evolution of what used to be released on labels like Morr Music –in other words, it’s Manual or Styrofoam school indietronic in it’s most stripped-down form–, but at the same time manifests a much deeper preoccupation with rhythm rather than melody –it avoids being pop and prefers to focus on the edges of the dancefloor, like the artists on Border Community do–, and, above all, it sounds familiar because it paradoxically sounds exotic. He is one more –and someone important, once you listen to all of “Lucky Shiner”– in an invisible saga of producers of British cyberdelica who have reached the other side of Asia and come back with exciting material with which they can enrich their own music. Personally I would say Gold Panda sounds like Nathan Fake after a world trip because he has the same ability to eternalise, plus his music is as rich in textures as those of Freeform, the producer hidden in Skam and Warp’s catalogues who one day left his country in order to study the music of China and Vietnam. On pieces like “I’m With You But I’m Lonely” and “Same Dream China” the land of the dragon and the borders of the golden triangle sounds, but there’s also a bit of Indostan jungle (“India Lately”) and the island of Bali. Going that far, Gold Panda wants his music to grow as high as the Himalaya.
It’s become clear over time that Gold Panda should grow a big fanbase and be singled out as the most promising of the latest generation of bedroom producers. However, there’s no hype around this guy –maybe that’s a good thing, although nobody as talented as he is deserves to go unnoticed–, possibly for the simple reason that he can’t be related to any of the fashionable scene, dubstep or otherwise. And yet, he’s openly indie-friendly –or what else is going on with “Parents”, a folk interlude with acoustic guitar–, and perfectly recognisable as the IDM we all know but done like no-one has before, with luxurious moods, cubist adornments, glitches, rhythmic deconstruction and mental excursions to spaces out of space and time. Mental being an important word here, because “Lucky Shiner” provokes physical reactions: it’s when you listen closely, hearing all the details, when the record blooms as an imaginative sonic decoration, green with life and nutritious for the soul. And it includes “You” –previously released on 7” on Notown and on 12” on Ghostly (with remixes)–, the culmination of this highly particular style which joins the world together in one tiny spot and launches it out of the atmosphere with a golden psychedelic ribbon around it, to pick it up like rain on “You”, take two, which closes the record, and is a soft cascade of violins and theremin with a message so we won’t forget: this is music that has travelled so that you can travel, that has dreamed so you can dream. Do not waste this chance.