Half of Where You Live is Gold Panda’s 2nd full length LP and it has a lot to live up to. Lucky Shiner, his debut which was released 3 years ago, won the Guardian First Album Award and was nominated for the 2011 Mercury Prize.
This album reflects the vast range of influences he has experienced whilst travelling the world touring his previous material with the main influence as ever being the Far East, Japan in particular. The eclectic range of samples from around the globe have been incorporated into his unique sound giving this a slightly different sound pallet to Lucky Shiner but still keeping true to his lo-fi soundscape based style.
HOWYL starts off with ‘Junk City II’ and sets off with a warm crackle and soothing strings which are soon enveloped in a Chicago house beat. The track progresses nicely and gains some real momentum with the catchy string riff piercing through the track throughout. Whilst being more dance floor ready than most of Gold Pandas work it is still heaped in tonnes of brilliantly layered ambient loops and drenched in hazy atmosphere. ‘An English House’ features a truly sunny melody and a smooth vocal refrain over an intricate but firm beat. Another dance floor ready track heaped in blurred ambience.
A couple of months ago, ‘Brazil’ was released as a glimpse of what to expect from the album and it received a pretty mixed review. Some people had a problem with the repetitive vocal but I love it, people need to listen to vocal samples as though they are any other instrument and accept producers looping them as such. Whilst being named after a country this track doesn’t contain any elements that make it sound overtly Brazilian but instead reflects the craziness of arriving in a new place with its skittering percussion and urgent synths.
‘My Father In Hong Kong 1961’ is a soundscape that adds to the album without being too much in itself. ‘Community’ is similar in that it makes most sense as part of the album though there is much more to it. With light vocals and warm and friendly pads, this track grooves along in soporific ambience.
‘S950’ is a short psychedelic day dream with a smooth melody played out on the xylophone. The synths and ever expanding percussion of ‘We Work Nights’ lead the song to a fantastic climax of driving drums and discordant strings.
‘Flinton’ is made of crackling drums and yet more warm string melodies whilst ‘Enoshima’ drifts by in a miasma of broken beats and ever-shifting sounds. Both are great album tracks which add to the feel of the album whilst not really grabbing attention.
Gold Pandas mastery of sample manipulation is really shown in ‘The Most Liveable City’ as jungle sounds lead up to a sample of woman asking ‘Are you okay, are you getting depressed?’. Complex and driving percussion then takes the listener on a journey through an intricately laid out aesthetic. The closer ‘Reprise’ is a satisfying end; with an elegant vocal and atmosphere swelling to then dissipate to a slow jam that flows to a sombre conclusion.
This album has a real flow to it and as such works best when listened to in its entirety; though that’s not to say there aren’t any tracks that can’t stand their own ground. For me this doesn’t reach the same lofty heights as Lucky Shiner but it represents a maturing of Gold Panda’s sound. I’m sure I will listen to this album many more times and I think it’s likely to continue growing on me. The trippy, warped sounds of Gold Panda are ideal for the summer that has finally arrived as it provides all the gentle atmosphere one could desire whilst basking in the sun.
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Written by Andy Brennan