Available on: Ghostly International LP
The problem with hype is that sometimes it can get in the way of the music, and this is exactly my difficulty with Gold Panda. It’s obvious, from the wave of online praise and word-of-mouth admiration that the London-based producer has garnered over the last twelve months, that there are a lot of people out there who find Gold Panda a very exciting prospect.
In fact, looking over the initial wave of reviews that Lucky Shiner has received elsewhere, it’s apparent that he’s succeeded in making a record that’s gained much praise from a diverse cross-section of the music media. This is something I’m acutely aware of as I listen to the record – and unfortunately I just don’t understand why.
There’s nothing to dislike about Lucky Shiner; at the very least it’s an enjoyable listen. Both of the versions of ‘You’ that bookend the album are nicely constructed tunes focused around sparse, understated vocal samples, while ‘Marriage’ and single ‘Snow & Taxis’ build mellow moods out of melodically pleasing samples.
Yet it’s difficult to pick out anything that Gold Panda does that hasn’t been done before; much of Lucky Shiner is reminiscent of ground that Kieran Hebden has tread in the past, and moments elsewhere bring to mind fellow sample-twiddler Nosaj Thing. Similarly, while Gold Panda obviously has a natural skill at conjuring up delicate, nostalgic moods, Lucky Shiner doesn’t come close to reaching the peaks of, for example, Pantha Du Prince’s gorgeous, shimmering Black Noise.
To his credit Gold Panda draws on a wide palette of influences – there are hints of house, minimal techno, garage and hip-hop in there – but he doesn’t really get his teeth into any one genre. It’s like he’s showing you a book of colour samples rather than trying to create a masterpiece.
And this is where the whole hype problem comes in – taken totally self-contained Lucky Shiner is a decent-enough, if not exactly awe-inspiring, record, but in context I find it impossible to digest it without being haunted by the feeling that there’s something in his music that I’m just not hearing. It could just be me, but in all this feels a little too measured and by the book. There’s obviously skill and potential there, but there are numerous more exciting new producers emerging in the UK right now. Lucky Shiner is worthy of a listen, just don’t expect to believe the hype.