Over the course of a few relatively low-key releases, Gold Panda has carved himself a neat little niche in the current electronic landscape. He creates dance songs written about a forever on/off relationship with the east, using old, forgotten samples that are chopped up and sequenced rhythmically with the beat. The singles he has released have all been short snapshots into his interesting production technique, and it was no surprise Quitters Raga gained him a load of attention. The release after that, You (the first song of the album, not the last), whilst pretty, frustratingly seemed to be the same song with different samples. I cannot say I wasn't slightly worried that he had used up his creativity; a whole album of it could get boring very quickly.
No worries as Gold Panda's obsession with the east is fascinating for the listener to pry in on; Oriental influences are omnipresent on the album but never dominating, like he was writing standard dance songs but could not help but include them. The album is an aural recount of months spent in an entirely different culture; he exudes the confusion and fascination that any foreigner has in a strange country, especially the humbleness of ignorance at a daunting new way of life: never imposing himself, simply observing. This child-like interest perhaps has lead to the delicate and exquisitely pretty songs, which, unlike many of his contemporaries, seem happy to be so beautifully uncompromising (even unchallenging, if you ignore the negative aspects of the term), the music is able to exist just as it is without demanding the listeners attention. Lucky Shiner is a postcard sent back home to the listener: modest, spontaneous and desperate to convey more than the sum of its parts; even the packaging of the CD is basic but earnestly interesting.
Strangely, Gold Panda has stuck to his tried-and-tested rhythmic structure, but it becomes as essential to the whole album as the drums do. Instead of seeming overdone, they become his natural means of expression, playing with the repetitive riffs with background melodies and the beat. The repetition is like the endless travelling he must have undertook in Asia, it is both necessary and guides the listener through the album, whilst also used to build the tracks into climaxes like in standard dance music. India Lately is the best example of this, a small riff that is the forefront of the first half of the track is brought back after disappearing, both re- contextualised against the clatter of live drums and acting as a reminder of the change the track has been through.
However, for a brief period around the half way mark the music seems to complacent in being just pretty enough, and while never being boring or uninteresting, it lacks the dynamism of the rest of the album. This perhaps is the only downfall of Lucky Shiner, it seems sometimes too wrapped up in its own little daydream to be able to convey the experience to the listener, and instead just flows on by, and tracks merge into one another without change. That said, the album is undeniably a very pretty one, and deeper than one may expect from the previous releases. Gold Panda has accomplished something very special in Lucky Shiner, he is able to take the listener on a journey without the audacity to act as any kind of authority, these are his mixed-up memories, dreams, wishes for the listener to get lost in.
You can listen to the entire album here: