Gold Panda - Half Of Where You Live

The best thing about returning to the past to seek inspiration, is that it refuses to hold restraint or even a grudge on when in life you decide to fulfill that desire. Gold Panda is not exactly the youngest of spurred, hot-heeled producers in today's electronica community - he had just reached the looming three-zero mark at the time of the release of his debut, the stunning Lucky Shiner. But like the man four albums more his senior, Four Tet, Gold Panda's aim seems to be of joyous recollection regardless of physical age; reminding one's self the simpler joys in life are that of memory and of the vast rekindling support such thoughts entail on getting us through what might be, perhaps, more trivalent of days. In an age fueled by digital perseverance and social enclosure, Gold Panda's sound conjures feeling of analog meddling; colourful bits-and-bobs that don't sincerely aim to be clear, but strangely hold a kind of personal understanding in how they go about explaining particular feelings or phases of existence. Perhaps this is why we here at MRD have grown to respect the UK-based producer's skill at crafting this particular toning and externalizing vibe for electronics. So it's no surprise that 2013's Half Of Where You Live sees Panda throw himself at the visage of past travels and memory of that location and of scenery; many titles on this album both references as well perhaps markers of importance, influence...or maybe even self-structure.

One of Panda's skills, and something he strives to excel in on his sophomore, is the epicentral forgingof theme with location. Opening track Junk City II certainly attempts to capture that monotonous, slightly broken sparseness in its robust, ear-filling synth notes. But so too there's a more heightening visual of industry, technology and futurism in Panda's play on percussion hits (frantic hand-claps and shuffled hi-hats jiggling about the mix) and scurried pace help lift the scenery from off of his initial palette and out into what feels a very considered approach to space and traversing such scenery with a sense of discovery. An English House likewise sees the UK producer mesh the distant clarity of such a spectacle with the more eery and ambitious toning and decoration that, possibly, can only come out of likely curiosity or deep, prolonged venture. Panda's style here however works to give the track's title a two-fold meaning: one is of that more humbler, comforting enclosures - keyboards and glockenspiel hits alluding to that homely, easing of mind - and the other, via the stylized upbeat strike of beats, is of a clear reference to House music; the profound effect it's had on not just our country, but on Panda himself definitely coming across as both reasoned and passionately striven. It's the tentative craft to which he puts into his more mechanical accompaniments - drumbeats coming off a lot more shone on and clearer, while the eery texture of electronics give the surrounding atmosphere that equal delicateness in shade and colour.

Not all of Panda's visuals are as clearly obvious as this though as is the case on the track Brazil. The repeating calls of the title do partially degrade the fairly low-key environment - such repetition by the end coming off really as amateurish and slightly boring - Panda seems to suggest (for the most part musically) as to some interesting textures at work. Especially with the minute, wood-like percussion lead. Here, a driving twitch of eighth/sixteenth-note beats loop and coil like tensed-up springs, ready to let loose and finally shooting through in unfathomable bounds. The way it both meshes and strikes against the air of the track's mystical, almost treasured opacity of sound, is perhaps not the most insightful of offerings, but it's clear this is an exciting and substantial moment for this record sonically. Further to that, Panda conjures some intriguing sets of emotional and gestural rhythm in regards to how his beat management and manner of production goes about reinstating its listener to a particular point, and likewise, time in the producer's thought of mind. My Father In Hong Kong 1961 is the most considered use of space and the sociology in this regard, because of said consideration. The 1961 part especially, in both its age and indeed its mythology comes through immensely in the sounds Panda puts out. Everything from the vinyl crackling in the backdrop, the oriental-styled chimes nestling at mid-point, the rise-and-simmer of ambiance clouding over the song. It's that charismatic reference to old memories and old visages - an idea of retracing a moment even if going about it in as simple a fashion as putting a decade-age record on play or looking a desaturated photo - Panda does so well at conjuring in the track's detailed interlink of sound and layered production, in order to create that full perspective of view.

It's nice to see, following this, Panda flexing his more visceral muscles on the track Community which finds the electronic synths taking precedence (if not suitably placed at the top/front of the mix) in driving the actual textures and vibes of the piece through. Panda's vocal looping here is slightly more interlinking and keenly fitted into the analogous darting of sound. But again, his drum work is what emphasizes the track title's meaning and cause for visual strength. It's the variety - percussion offering a foray of simple machine beats, jungle-like bongo hits, and some bass-focused passages too - despite at times surfacing as if brimming with risky conflicting interests, actually combine thoroughly well. Even, in most occasion, coming across as if meeting one another's strengths but aiding their potential weaknesses. This empathetic, synchronicity leads me to draw an even clearer comparison with that which is far more human and living in this collective pattern...vis a vis, a living, breathing community. What's striking then is despite such broad space and simplicity of structure, Panda's faith in his listener - how it's left even more in how hands to speculate - that emphasizes just how delicate but in-tune the man seems to be in instigating context out of such simply-led rhythms, but never necessarily demanding it there and then.

This is only but one listener's take (my take) on his allusions, but the fact is that Panda's foray into repetition with percussion and beats seems to feel evermore accompanied and actually purposeful in creating a scenario for which we can draw from to carry us forward. S950's more melodic approach conjures the same level of delicate detail and means to project a state of past stance, but instead we find our subconscious imagery overtaken by passing scurries of sound - translucent keyboards and crunchy electronics tending to suggest a motorway or even just a distant passage of blurred positions simply lost to the memory of previous gradually building behind us. And with follower We Work Nights, the tentative move forward seems to feel evermore like distant sight-seeing. The simple drumbeats make a return, but they don't carry as much the same weight and importance as previous. Panda's focus, it seems, is on the continuing voyage and humble curiosity of these new surroundings; glittered strums of colourful guitar tone definitely alluding to the  liveliness of what feels more a nightly tourist environment. But because of the pacing, it feels less a long-haul entertaining of local delicacy, and more a scurried check-list of sights to see and things to do. So while I admire Panda's adamancy in trying to see/deal with everything all in one sitting, I can't help but perceive this track as being just too quick or hurried along to fully appreciate the environment being conjured.

For certain, I feel this is a record that showcases some good conjuring of rhythm and tempo in order to excel an instrument's quality or navigation across to the listener. But again, with a track like Flinton, things feel slightly too frantic. Maybe not 100mph frantic, but at the very least coming off the musical equivalent of a sprint through jostling but reclusive shopping malls. The music at times tends to run as opposed to walk through the scenery. Enoshima is quick to remind us though, even when the tempo and pacing is at such an ascent, what's offered - and the relations they conjure - are not at fault. Panda's focus on toning of percussion, especially on this track, emerges some provoking spectrum of emotion as well as that of a sonic variety. The slightly auspicious, looming vibe the beats create definitely feels like an attempt to replicate the geology of the small Japanese island of the same name; the end-of-land retreat; the voided oceanic presence; even the fact that it's such a distanced location from what [me and Panda alike] consider our original country of origin. It adds a measure of tension, but only because the music - much like the location being suggested - feels so withdrawn and conflicting, in the first place, with our own cultural understanding. With the closing Reprise, the album's fond send-off and reminder that 'you don't know where or how much I miss you' perfectly sums up both the despondency of leaving new territory, but so too - via the gradual build of intense synthesizers and delivery of looping key tone - the joy in remaining to that theme of embarking towards different territory to where the future lays, but too may generate an opportunity to share a past delight in.

There's no question this is a record that aims more to spell out the many cultural scenes - via a rich panoramic and host of lively activity - Gold Panda has clearly experienced in his vast touring of the World's differed corners of culture and societal activity. Unfortunately at times, the album suffers because of its emphasis (which borders on desperation even) in trying to get from A to B in as compact and dramatic a viewpoint one can assert. However, these moments never really weaken or even deflate the strong muster of visuals and textures Panda manages to create in his lavish use of percussion and atmospheric tension in order to bring his scenery to life. When going through the motion of Half Of Where You Live, the listener will find themselves clearly aloft in South American territory one minute, carried eastwards into Asia the next, and then not thirty minutes afterward even more eastwards across Panda's humble palette of electronic recollect and instrumental momentum. Sure the trip is fast-paced at times, and maybe a little bumpy, but when given the time of day to view and take notice of such varied scenery, Gold Panda's sound leaves no photographically captured imagery unseen to, or better yet, at the mercy of ambiguity or background sparseness. Gold Panda's photo-album chock with past trips is mostly clear and so clearly audible, it's like you're actually there discovering it for the first time, but for yourself.


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Discovery: Gold Panda - Half Of Where You Live
Gold Panda - Half Of Where You Live
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