It was the American philanthropist W. Clement Stone who first coined the phrase “you are a product of your own environment.” It is of course a debatable opinion, but it certainly seems to ring true in the case of Derwin Schlecker, better known as Gold Panda. The UK-born producer grew up in South East London/Essex, moved to Japan to study the country’s language and eventually ended up in Berlin, where he currently resides. It should therefore come as no surprise that Gold Panda’s sound palette is as broad and adventurous as it is otherworldly, and his latest record, Half Of Where You Live, expands upon the impressive foundations he set out with his debut LP Lucky Shiner.
Gold Panda’s apparent obsession with travelling and geography in general are more obvious than ever on this record; you needn’t look any further than the track names such as “Brazil”, “My Father In Hong Kong 1961”, “An English House” and “The Most Liveable City” to realize that this LP intends to venture out much further than the average producer’s comfort zone. You could even go as far as to say that it acts as a personal journal for Gold Panda as much as it does a collection of great tracks.
It takes less than two minutes to hear influences from all across the globe. Take the erratic opening track “Junk City II” for example: the solid, four-to-the-floor thump draws from Berlin’s prominent techno scene, while Gold Panda chooses to embellish the track with exotic-sounding bells and airy flutes as opposed to more conventional synth sounds. Elsewhere, “Community” takes numerous bizarre vocal samples and somehow makes them sound perfectly at home amongst rattling percussion and ambient synths, while there’s even a sample of what sounds like an erhu (a bowed Chinese instrument) on the uplifting “We Work Nights”. His incorporation of acoustic instruments and consistently unpredictable timbres (at times reminiscent of some of Bibio’s work) gives Gold Panda’s music a raw, organic sound that completely sets him apart from the ever-expanding wasteland of unoriginal and disposable sample-heavy electronic music.
While a large portion of this new record veers towards housier territory than its predecessor – the likes of “Junk City II”, “Community” and “We Work Nights” could just as easily be played in a club as they could on a pair of headphones – there are also some beautifully contrasting ambient pieces. “S950” (named after the Akai S950 sampler that was used to record the track) floats and flickers with the softest of touches; “My Father In Hong Kong 1961” combines yet more Far Eastern percussion with creeping, cascading synths; and the closing track “Reprise” toys with climactic synths while a female vocal sample hauntingly croons the phrase “if you knew how much I missed you.” It’s a fitting and emotional end to a record that covers more ground than a lot of electronic artists manage to cover in their careers.
While some songs don’t quite have the same arresting effect as the terrific album highlight “Brazil”, and despite a lack of cohesion between the 11 tracks, Half Of Where You Live is a superbly satisfying follow-up to Gold Panda’s still brilliant debut album; never straying too far from what made him big in the first place but still managing to bring something new and exciting to the table. Who knows what kind of material he’ll be putting out in the future, but rest assured that whether it’s uplifting house or thought provoking ambient, it’ll be something special.