Review Summary: Gold Panda’s collection of EP’s has acted dutifully, a companion to its master to arc him towards his next potential triumph.
Derwin Schlecker fits the bill of the meticulous, obsessively self-critical musician that one would expect from his type of electronic music. All of the hazy drum samples, the frolicking synth melodies, the prominent Oriental influence directly illustrating much of his music’s underlying emotions: each and every element was picked very delicately by the man that goes by the moniker Gold Panda
. He scrapes what he can from those around him, adjusting it and honing it accordingly to create an end product he’ll find himself content with. This process cannot involve more than a day – Schlecker himself has admitted that he starts to abhor his art more and more with each passing moment he spends with it. He wants to purge it out, leave a concrete end product before it isn’t applicable to his life anymore and he therefore loses the reason to pin it down in the first place. When he possesses enough material in his life to make him reach for pen and paper, the world is able to witness first-hand the culmination of Schlecker’s experiences across the globe, his flirting with solitude and self-doubt, the loss of important friends, and what all of these experiences have ultimately unleashed upon the man himself. For the musically inclined London denizen, music is a release of all the negative emotions he’s been harboring, an honest and bleak prospect of a man that has issues reminding himself that people do actually look forward to what he creates. This is the interesting point of Gold Panda’s catalogue – constructed by a man’s woes, it’s unexpectedly acknowledged by many of its most ardent supporters as a collective of incredibly joyous and uplifting tunes. Therein lies the connection with the phrase that denotes most accurately what Gold Panda’s collection of EP’s until now has acted as dutifully, a companion to its master to arc him towards his next potential triumph.
Companion is essentially the collection of stepping-stones along the way towards Lucky Shiner, the first album under the official name of Gold Panda. This is exactly why it cannot be judged as a cohesive whole, because that is not what it strives to be; to fault Companion for a lack of consistency would be ludicrous. The songs contained within the release all strive for different landmarks, from ominous glitch soundscapes to dreamy lulls of ambience made much more possible by the persistent fuzz sound utilized on many of Schlecker’s samples, reminiscent of a warm fireplace in front of which to respite from the harsh toils of the day. Whatever Gold Panda aims for on Companion, however farcical it may seem for him, he manages to pull it off due to his constant remembrance to contain what he has proven himself most adept at. The album art itself is testament to the amalgamation of all of the different places Gold Panda has found himself musically, from his humble beginnings to the release of Lucky Shiner. The deft manipulation of previously straightforward samples on top of sizzling beats and downtrodden bass serve as a portrait of what Schlecker has gathered from his past, as well as what he hopes to gain from his future ventures in the world of music.
Most of what is accumulated on Companion is gratifying to live up to Lucky Shiner, but there are a couple of problems that tend to plague the album. There can be simply too much going on at crucial moments, perhaps a synth loop that isn’t even within the tempo of the song, and it drones on while progress is being made in the song. Some could call this a way to keep particular elements constant while others vary, but this is less effective than that idea suggests, as it lessens the tension and renders it much less vital to the pieces as a whole than it could have been. That is the major downside of an album recorded solely on a man’s demons, that there will almost always be parts that are undesirable to those that haven’t shared his experiences, and while this problem isn’t common enough to detract greatly from the quality of Companion, it does bring down the overall potential of the album. However, what’s most reassuring is that these are essentially Gold Panda’s first releases, and that progress from this will be made, and has already been made.
For a start, this album does well to remind us of why we’re following Gold Panda in the first place, how we can relate to him when he constructs songs about not really feeling too at home. Maybe there’s an underlying meaning to why we find ourselves yearning for music like his, because we often encounter the same hurdle ourselves. And maybe, just maybe, we long for a place to call home too. That day will come eventually, and in the meantime we can join each other and make life a little easier on ourselves, because who would want to face the frail subtleties of life without a companion?