The parameters demarcating the ever broadening spectrum of purportedly electronic music have been shunted quite dramatically since Derwin Dicker, aka Gold Panda, unleashed his scintillating début Lucky Shiner out into the rabid wilds of then critical acclaim. Nigh on three years have since passed although even in these past three weeks alone, the borders have again been shifted quite seismically with groundbreaking releases from the likes of Jon Hopkins and Boards of Canada right up there among the releases of the year thus far, and that’s true absolutely irrespective of generic genre compartmentalisation. It’s a shift in no small part due to the ever increasing attainability of the prerequisite implements for the composing of electronica, and so too a greater accessibility to the internet whereby we can now jump online whenever in need of that next hit. Be that a park or indeed a pub, we’re forever connected which, from an at least subjective perspective, makes it all the more problematic for the modern-day artist to in fact make a connection on a considerably more human level.
Of course, this neuronal reaction was once more rapidly kindled by musics of a more organic persuasion, with laptops and other intricately soldered gadgetry widely deemed as sterile as they to this day remain insentient. But it’s only with the wearying of time that those Brits aforesaid have been able to bring a real warmth to electronic music, and this is arguably as yet Gold Panda’s greatest strength. His unrelentingly instrumental outpour instantly identifiable, I’d ostensibly reckon this to be due to the inimitably inviting and indeed discernibly human, if forever distant and exotic timbres intrinsic to so much of it. And with sophomore full-length Half Of Where You Live now wholly amongst us, none of this indisputable allure shows sign of turning either lukewarm or stale any time soon…
Derwin first drew back the curtain a touch with the schizoid-cum-strangely calming Brazil, which saw him once again voyage far afield for necessary inspiration. Nonetheless where he would previously have determinedly set coordinates for Honshu, he this time went the other way and to São Paulo. And for a time, I must admit, I felt somewhat discombobulated by such an apparent shift in focus for gone were the Asiatic twangs, instead usurped by an albeit appositely muggy humidity. The heat thus lingers, although it may in this instance be of a more meteorological, as opposed to emotive variety. Similarly, the scintillating synthetic glimmering in the backdrop has kept well but with this one arriving already a few in, I struggle to hear beyond it being an alien recording both within the context of the back catalogue, and indeed of the album itself.
Although Half Of Where You Live ultimately fails to inhabit as acute a niche as that carved out by its predecessor, as it conversely basks in a more cosmopolitan outlook on life and so too style. The hyphy synths and hip hop vocal samples to comprise Community combine to make for a commensurately far cry from past successes, and intimate toward Derwin evolving from early evening soundtracker, to early morning saviour. However, the overarching effect here conjured is unfortunately one more closely affiliated with the themes of devolution for whilst it might witness a spiced modification to his trademark matter, it’s all too analogous to much of the stuff to have seeped out of SoundCloud in his protracted absence.
Variation is similarly incurred by Derwin’s seemingly increasingly jet-set custom: the becoming ambiences and chandelier-like twinkles of An English House sit beside the external Brazil, which is in turn situated right next to a track entitled My Father in Hong Kong 1961. We’re here transported not only to a remote place, but so too a dislocated time for four minutes of resoundingly sublime beauty that could be quite seamlessly incorporated into Pantha du Prince & The Bell Laboratory’s sensational Elements Of Light LP. Yet whereas Hendrik Weber then worked alongside a vast host of Norwegian aural scientists, it’s worth remembering that Derwin has only a horde of vinyl at which to hack. That is to say that pieces painted from his palette of predominant black ought to sound significantly more one-dimensional than the multi-textured, and sonically polychromic collection we’re here presented with.
From the giddying, distorted arpeggi of S950 – its incidentally antiseptic name derived from a vintage AKAI sampler of that same catalogue number – to the bursting freshness of a consummately developed We Work Nights; the choppy, heady grooves of an unspecified Junk City II to the idiosyncratically muffled Flinton, Half Of Where You Live is a work which flitters between such vividly contrasting elements and consistencies that it suitably feels of no fixed abode. What this lattermost number exhibits, however, is again Derwin’s increased dexterity in the practising of atmospheres keenly attuned to nocturnal exercises: the wistful jitter of what sounds a zither returns, but it’s here intermingled with an itself mangled drum machine pattern which builds to a crescendo that if not quite devastating, is certainly one of his most rousing to date.
All of which drops us off in a particularly intriguing brace, beginning with the unassuming, if finely nuanced Enoshima. A flashback to an enduring fascination with Japan and the country’s admittedly mesmeric culture, it’s perhaps aptly that which best represents all that Dicker has bred thus far. But as this ends abruptly and so too all too soon, it segues into another entitled The Most Liveable City. Unlikely indebted to Gold Panda’s once natural habitat of Peckham, nor his parents’ now local Chelmsford – an of course grossly commercialised notch in the banker belt he deems to be teeming with “cunts”, and the sort of godforsaken shitehole which, if ever visited, will doubtless lead you to fully sympathise with his longing to leave the UK behind in favour of, say, Berlin – it’s apparently inspired by the German techno haven he (at least for the time being) knows as home. Bristling with a considerably more Hi-NRG bpm to much of his previous, it becomes immediately evident that the city has had a profound effect on him as both a person, and so too a producer.
Where man and his doting machines go from here is anyone’s guess, but if Half Of Where You Live should be another stamp in his proverbial passport then it’s one I can’t foresee him wanting to scrub out any time soon…