‘Lucky Shiner’ fails to sparkle

Gold Panda’s full-length debut album, “Lucky Shiner,” seems a fitting introduction to the sound of a new decade’s interpretation of what trance and electronic genres are beginning to sound and feel like.
The new-wave school of computerized music that Gold Panda exemplifies is full of lush, electronic beats that have been carefully orchestrated and sound less like the confusing synthesized pudding of Aphex Twin and more like the effort of an Indian DJ raised on Chicane and Massive Attack.
From beginning to end, this album sounds solidly European, with none of the bouncing twangs or jittery skips of the American electronic genre.
What’s new and unexpected is that this album feels human, which is quite a feat when a mixing board and computer are the instrumentation. Although the drum beats are synthesized and the instrumentation is overlaid, all of the components of the tracks seem to come together in a way that makes an artificial production sound organic.
Yet, not all the changes brought out in this interpretation of trance are for the best. “Lucky”’s main drawback seems to be that it doesn’t have a fluidity between the tracks. This sounds like an album of greatest hits instead of a cohesive whole, and that’s really disappointing considering the strength of composition Gold Panda displays in each track.
There’s nothing which particularly stands out, and yet this album doesn’t sound complete. Each song is masterfully laid out, yet, although there are some unifying characteristics between songs, there is a carrying theme for the album.
This results in an effort that, although pleasant in short doses, is exhausting to actually listen to; the listener is constantly being required to pay attention to what they’re listening to.
Another detractor, which ensures that “Lucky Shiner” isn’t going to make it big, is the album’s almost complete lack of vocals. Although this alone shouldn’t doom an album, albums that manage to succeed without any vocal backing typically maintain a great amount of creativity, or some sort of catch to pull in the listener.
Some artists use freedom from vocals to their advantage, creating memorable soundscapes or bending sound in strange ways. Contemporaries such as Tiesto or Pulsedriver are certain masters of this talent, but there are no such aspirations from Gold Panda.
In reflecting on this album, there are certain things which can’t be described; there’s almost a certain feeling of invitation in listening to “Lucky,” as though this album was created for creative celebration instead of for any sort of audience. This certainly isn’t the sort of trance album that’s going to enjoy any popularity. Rather, “Lucky” sounds like the sort of music that, 10 years down the road, will continue to enjoy celebrity among the sort of crowd that uses patchouli as deodorant.
In listening to this album and attempting to develop an opinion about it, I couldn’t really decide whether I loved or hated it. The artist has unbelievable potential, and it’s exciting to think that, with some grooming, Gold Panda could hit it big. Yet, at the same time, there’s a sense of frustration that this album isn’t more: more cohesive, more cultured, more exciting. Ultimately, none of these criticisms really makes this album any less then what it is supposed to be.
“Lucky” makes you think.

Eric Tompkins/KSLC 90.3 FM
Eric Tompkins can be reached at kslcmusic@gmail.com.

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