Derwin Schlecker, formerly of Peckham and Chelmsford but now Berlin-based, has metamorphosized into his alter ego Gold Panda and returns to bring the listening public the follow-up to the highly acclaimed and 2011 Mercury Prize-nominated Lucky Shiner. A little bit of cursory internet research provides hints as to the influences, references and source material that provide the layers and strata for Gold Panda’s world. Time spent in Japan and study at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London has certainly left a lasting impression on Schlecker, as this release is held together at the seams by stitches and loops of South East Asian sound culture.
‘My Father in Hong Kong 1961’ is an aural soundscape reminiscent of a Radio 4 documentary about Balinese scarecrows (the method of warding off birds by bells), and it’s a chiming and ethereal tone poem that actually works very well. For listeners who like their tunes abstract and with a bubbling undertow of Chicago House clickety-clacks and sequencers, this record will be thoroughly absorbing. In many ways, it’s actually like taking your brain on a trip to the tropical Southern Hemisphere; close your eyes and you’re in Kuala Lumpur or Phuket, name your desired destination and you’re away. But does this lead to the creative DJ’s nightmare of having your music falling into the category of “nice tunes that become aural wallpaper as you’re waiting for your dinner to arrive”?
There’s actually too much intelligence and crafting taking place here for that fate to befall Half of Where You Live. ‘An English House’ is a gorgeous example of the beauty of simple sequencer-driven electronica. “Brazil” features an excellent sample of what presumably are marbles clicking on the old “executive toy”, which only begin to irritate with the repeated vocal refrain of “Brazil” adding nothing exceptional to the song. ‘The Most Liveable City’ is another fine ticking and clicking vision, presumably inspired by Melbourne – the current holder of that accolade – but equally applicable in feel and tone to any city on the Pacific rim, by the use of bird samples and the buzzing futuristic aura of a city at one with itself. Half urban soundtrack, half danceable Eastern vision, Half Of Where You Live is a recommended summer listen. Jeremy Shields
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