Review Summary: “How do you feel emotionally today? Are you okay, or are you getting depressed?”
Gold Panda’s music has always been reliable for the vivid images it conjures. Lucky Shiner
kicked off Derwin Schlecker’s journey into electronic music by drawing sketches of life on the road, and exposing us to one foreign emotion after another. Tracks like “Same Dream China” directly combated our fuzzy concept of sunset itself, instead telling us that the experience is just as much about the darkness emerging as it is about the sunlight receding. Elsewhere, the title of “Snow & Taxis” revealed all it needed to, exposing the hustle and bustle of the city-- and how it doesn’t have to be a bad thing, in the midst of all its traffic, to feel like just a number.
In particular, there was an overwhelming loneliness about the second half of Lucky Shiner
, and an intimacy that Gold Panda himself has been trying to recreate for quite some time now. He’s come close-- in particular, Trust
was a breath of fresh air-- and he’s been working steadily, from one small batch of tracks to another. All the preparation has been building up to Half Of Where You Live
, the first full-length record from Schlecker in four years. And the album certainly has as much to say as Lucky Shiner did. There are some drastic style leaps here, from hazy downtempo tunes to outright house-- and the variation at hand works wonders with itself. Gold Panda knows the right way to pace lengthier releases (an aptitude that more electronic producers could benefit from having,) marrying the enthusiasm of the accessible songs with the leisurely build of the album’s lulls.
But while Half Of Where You Live
is structured remarkably well, its definitive moments lack that magnetism that’s always been at the heart of Gold Panda’s music. Part of this can be attributed towards Schlecker’s newfound affinity for approachability-- he uses every device possible to make the release’s key points as memorable as he can. Unfortunately for Schlecker, it’s the classic case of oversaturation, where too many instruments reside in the foreground-- see the album’s centerpiece, “Community,” and notice how its main hook is front-and-key throughout the entire track. Other instruments enter the fold after some time, only to tug at the spotlight out of confusion. Gold Panda’s clearly confused about what he wants to express in songs like “Community,” but that isn’t even the album’s main issue.
The chief concern with Half Of Where You Live
is its monochrome use of vocal samples. Initially, it feels like a petty grievance when considering the album’s egregious offenders have such fantastic backdrops. But in order for a song like “Brazil” to be as effective as it wants to be, it has to have more than a single sample of a man, presumably Brazilian, mumbling the country’s name. And this alone wouldn’t be a problem if the sample were a), used in a more rhythmically exciting manner, and b), used conservatively. Although the vocal samples, as clumsily executed as they are, technically are just one malfunctioning piece of the greater machine at work here, they serve a far greater purpose in the context of Gold Panda’s music. This inadequacy of Half Of Where You Live
points out one important fact: this album needs a more level-headed voice at its forefront.
It seems that Gold Panda’s latest functions best when idling by, when it isn’t aping for the listener’s attention. Most of the record’s highlights enter the picture in the second half, in which Half Of Where You Live
takes a subtler turn. “Flinton” introduces one of the most memorable melodies Schlecker’s devised thus far, and it operates through discretion-- the polar opposite of tracks like “Brazil,” where syrupy drums are only one of the important elements at hand. And before “The Most Livable City” really kicks off, a woman asks “How do you feel emotionally today? Are you okay, or are you getting depressed?” It’s the perfect way to segue into a song that doesn’t know how the hell it feels, with glitchy percussion and spacious synth chords reveling in their own confusion. The track is a far cry from the first half of the record because it doesn’t need to beg for your attention-- it earns it through perseverance. Maybe “The Most Livable City” spawns the most accurate picture of Gold Panda yet, of an artist who doesn’t need to tack frills onto his work to get a point across. Schlecker says enough through the way he carefully nurtures his music-- nothing else is necessary. Someone just needs to tell him already.