UK born beatsmith Gold Panda seems to be doing something very right. After releasing on Wichita and Various Production and remixing a wide range of popular artists including The Field, Bloc Party and Little Boots, Panda made his breakthrough with the short but ear-catching “Quitter’s Raga” on Make Mine. His blend of electronica/hip-hop sounds, which bounces between the stylistic poles of Caribou, Boards of Canada and Flying Lotus, has since found favor with Ghostly International which provides a home for his You – EP. The package is rounded out by a raft of remixes and digital exclusives.
“You” picks up where “Quitter’s Raga” left off, unleashing a torrent of chopped and stitched, helium pitched vocals that quiver above a cautious kick and clap combo. Pitting gruff drums against the yearning vocals slots the opening gambit in the same headspace as The Field taking on Flying Lotus — an aesthetically pleasing if not terribly inventive combination. It’s a good starting point for listeners who’ve not yet experienced Gold Panda without building much on his established sound. Instead he packs novelty into the hushed, almost techno track “Peaky Caps.” Here his percussion pops and clicks like a latter day dubstep track but is meshed with soft, faded chords. Plinky synth notes gradually nudge the track into more pastoral territory of sampled “mmm” vocals and almost nursery appropriate melodies, giving off a very reflective vibe that seems most inviting in solitude. The digital bonus track “Kill Yourself On A Beach” starts out promising, rolling sampled pitches off bumping rhythms, but soon loses some of its focus as rattling hand drums and kalimba melodies clamber into the frame. Had it been played more straightforward I wouldn’t be surprised if it made it onto the physical release.
Four producers are then given their chance to reshape “You” as they see fit. Relative newcomer Seams stays closest to the original in tone and construction, opting to swap the heavy drums for thinner snare patterns and chop off some of the dynamic range, but generally leaves “You” easily recognizable. Osborne’s remix offers something luxurious and familiar for the house heads: decked out in relaxed pads and Rhodes chords, it just barely references the sampled vocal line as even more compelling bass lines and evolving hi-hat patterns vie for audiences’ attention. On the digital end of things, Minotaur Shock’s rework is stuffed to the gills with chunky drums, bouncing kalimba notes, field samples and snatches of the vocal. At points it’s quite entertaining and other times it’s just overwhelming, which suggests with more judicious editing it could’ve been quite satisfying. Dam Mantle brings the EP to a close on a dubstep inspired tip, breaking the the original into an unstable maze of fleeting vocals and hyperactive percussion arrangements, all threaded together by whirs and beeps of a computer on the brink of overheating. The You – EP does a good job of making Gold Panda’s sound amenable to Ghostly’s broad audience in a variety of ways, even letting listeners choose what genre they prefer their Panda to be. We’ll see if other labels feel compelled to do the same.