UK producer Gold Panda introduced himself as a fierce craftsman of beats and samples last year with his impeccable 2009 single, “Quitters Raga.” With vocal chop-ups, Indian samples, a hypnotic skipping effect and an irresistible melody, he created a perfect and concise fusion of blissful psychedelic pop with powerful IDM beats, making for one hell of a left-field dance track. Yet before dropping his first full-length album, GP announced that he wasn’t interested in making more songs like “Raga,” nor did he want to make an album of club bangers. Rather, he was more interested in crafting an album of fully formed, melodic and structured songs. And with Lucky Shiner, that’s exactly what he delivers.
However, Lucky Shiner is by no means an understated pop album. It does have bangers, and it does boast some powerful, aggressive beats. While he didn’t end up straying from his vision, he most certainly created an album of big, beat-driven dance music, and a quite good one at that. “You,” which debuted several months prior to the album, isn’t actually that great a leap from “Quitters Raga.” Driven by similarly trippy vocal edits, the song snaps and pops, twinkles and buzzes. And “Snow & Taxis,” while a bit more twinkling and subtle, thumps like Kieran Hebden’s more recent dance-heavy material as Four Tet.
It is not strictly an album of bangers, though, and if it were, then Gold Panda would have most certainly lost the plot. The unexpectedly gentle “Parents” arrives early on the album, a soft, lo-fi acoustic guitar track that opens with the sound of the voices of who I assume to be someone’s parents. One of the prettier tracks on the album, “Marriage” is far more driven by melody than beat, though its hypnotic loops wouldn’t be out of place alongside Gui Boratto or The Field. Yet the album’s most impressive, “Same Dream China,” is the most dreamy and subtle. Bell-like samples chime in a sublime loop, leading up to a climactic clattering beat and the introduction of a Chinese motif.
While Gold Panda’s debut isn’t wall-to-wall club jams, Lucky Shiner finds that the Essex producer hasn’t forgotten how to create something that bangs. But if that’s not your thing, Lucky Shiner doubles as a soundtrack for daydreams, adventures in exotic places and an escape from the mundane. It’s a warm and versatile album that works just as well in the comfort of one’s home as it does in a crowd of drunken revelers.
MP3: “Same Dream China”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.