GOLD PANDA isn’t the man who spends weeks and months in his bedroom or studio in order to implement his vision of electronic music. Instead the British, now Berlin-based producer who also has lived in Japan and studied at the School of Oriental and African Studies at University of London loves to go around the world, to tour extensively and lead a nomadic life. On the one hand that may be one reason why there wasn’t that much new material from GOLD PANDA since the release of his much acclaimed debut album, Lucky Shiner, three years ago – a handful of singles and a DJ Kicks compilation, all of it certainly good works.
On the other hand the time he spends with touring, and he toured the world several times around, obviously is essential for his musical output, and that applies especially to Half Of Where You Live, released on Ghostly International and his own NOTOWN label. The joy of getting infected by foreign influences is as much audible in the plentiful tuny tracks on this LP as the need to utilize non-western stylistic elements and instruments in order to express his cosmopolitan subjectivity. And so the traces of his travels not only can be found in song titles such as Enoshima (a small Japanese island) or Flinton (a village on the east coast of England) but also in the carefully selected instrumentation and timbres of tracks like the jingling ambient of My Father In Hong Kong 1961 or the housy electronica of opener Junk City II. The latter, incidentally, was conceived as a potential soundtrack to the films of controversial director Takashi Miike. “These films depicted a post-economic boom in Tokyo in the 1990s“, GOLD PANDA explains, “and there was a last days feeling in them. [The feeling] still lurks [in Japan]. I saw a return to that possible dystopia. I’ve seen people in Osaka walking around, jobless, mental, stricken. I think real desperation and poverty is returning; it’s quite scary.“
GOLD PANDA didn’t produce a musical description of this dystopian state of mind that certainly not only lurks in Japan. Rather it seems that Half Of Where You Live is the attempt to oppose it with shimmering melodies and organic vibes on one side and with a cross-cultural blend of house and techno grooves with cute exotic harmonies, textures and interspersed rhythms. But especially the second approach merely works out with some reservations. ‘Cause Half Of Where You Live isn’t an album which can be said to be a veritable postcolonialistic one in the sense of a hybridisation of equally treated elements. The ‘exotic’ elements often remain just decorative, adornment of a occidentally rooted sound and groove. There are no fissures and seldom frictions between these types of elements, they are interwoven but often a little light-mindedly. Insofar it’s actually “a jump from location to location“ as GOLD PANDA describes the album, but frequently with a somehow touristic gaze.
There are exceptions, for instance when the glimmering house vibe of We Work Nights gets confronted with the wailing of arabic tuned violins providing a deeper, torn and more intricate state. And not so strictly assessed in the light of the criteria of equal treatment Half Of Where You Live indeed is a pretty good album. Jumping from the funky beat syncopation of An English House to the warmth of minimalist Brazil and dipping into the little underwater scene of S950 really fills with pleasure. And the accusatory, calling back words „If you’d know how much i miss you“ in the concluding Reprise fortunately just constitute a temporary end of a multifarious journey which provides lots of discoveries.
You can listen to Half Of Where You Live via NPR.