Gold Panda’s music has always been informed by wonderment, feeling lost and bewildered by a wave of overwhelming sensations. Often influenced by his travels, the Chelmsford, UK, producer’s work frequently captures loneliness and the rush of new experiences that come from exploring new locales. For Good Luck and Do Your Best, his third full-length album and first for City Slang, the producer focused on his travels to Japan, moving away from the dance-focused material of 2013’s Half of Where You Live and toward a meditative love letter to the country where he once lived.
In 2014, Derwin Panda (his chosen moniker) visited Japan twice with visual artist Laura Lewis with the aim of creating a documentary to chronicle his time there. Like most plans, the original idea evolved over time and instead became the spark for Gold Panda’s latest record. Using field recordings obtained from visiting cities like Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Ibusuki, he attempted to create a flowing record that succinctly captures his experiences in Japan.
While influenced by Japanese culture, this is distinctly a Gold Panda album. Western idolization of Japanese culture can often turn into fetishism, leading to a gross misrepresentation that propagates stereotypes. Gold Panda has taken care in this regard, not trying to vulture another culture’s ideologies for his own music, but rather making an effort to subtly incorporate elements like wind chimes into his own framework. For Gold Panda, who has lived in Japan, studied the language, and made strong bonds there, this reaches into a deeper place. As such, he’s crafted a calming work that suits his pensive sensibilities.
Throughout the record, Gold Panda is able to strike a balance between the two different sides of his focus, pairing hyperkinetic sounds with reflective, nearly ambient music in a way that is never jarring. He adeptly juggles these styles, as a song like “Autumn Fall” exudes a downtempo sense of calm that isn’t at odds with the many moving pieces at its center — including driving percussion, echoing keys, and shimmering synth sounds. The songs throughout are busy, the producer able to snugly fit the many instruments and sounds into an overarching tapestry.
Whereas strong singles seemed to take over his last two records (Half of Where You Live‘s “Brazil” and Lucky Shiner’s “You”), no one song truly eclipses the others on his latest. There are certainly standouts — the stuttering rhythms and pitch-shifted vocals of “In My Car” make it endlessly playable — but Good Luck and Do Your Best is well sequenced in the sense that it never quite settles into a lull. Between the hazy brooding of “Pink and Green” and the sublime grooving horns of “Your Good Times Are Just Beginning”, Gold Panda crafts a compelling listen throughout.
Gold Panda’s growth has been steady, the natural developments in his style favorable over the jarring shifts other producers may take. This has allowed him to become more assured, taking a relaxed approach that lets this album build gradually. For as many disparate elements he crams together, it’s all in service of the overall mood, one serene and warmer than anything he’s made before. There’s a sense of positivity throughout that recalls the lighter works of contemporaries like CFCF or early Baths. Utilizing that warmth, Gold Panda is able to master restraint and thoughtfulness. Good Luck and Do Your Best is an album about journeys, walking as a stranger through a new world, and finding grace and comfort in anonymity. As such, the album serves as a journey of its own, a bit of peace ideal for a bus ride or walk, a path to find solace in isolation and contemplation.
Essential Tracks: “In My Car”, “Pink and Green”, and “Time Eater”