Gold Panda’s Lucky Shiner continues Ghostly’s nearly single-handed campaign to make the music formerly known as IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) popular.Countering by-the-numbers rave music with more complicated beats and adventurous sound design, IDM had a brief period of ‘next-big-thing’ status, and its poster-boy Aphex Twin gained a cultish fan base. But as the 90s ended, it became what most electronic musicians tried not to be. Aside from the elitist ring of ‘Intelligent,’ IDM was too nerdy and insular to appeal to the cool kids.
Now comes Gold Panda, who first gained notice for his remixes of indie artists like Little Boots, Bloc Party, and Simian Mobile Disco. Don’t call his music IDM, but it certainly bears some of the hallmarks of the styles — sophisticated drum programming, adventerous sound design, and a willingness to follow a crazy idea to its logical conclusion. But Lucky Shiner is notable in that Mr. Panda refuses to stay in any one stylistic camp. The lead-off track “You” immediately recalls the fractured hip hop of Flying Lotus and his fellow LA Brainfeeders. “Vanilla” has a straight-up techno beat, overlaid with some crackle borrowed from Burial, but opens up in the middle to a dreamy flute melody. “Parents” combines location recordings with acoustic guitar. “Snow & Taxis” combines sampled strings with Soca snares. “Before We Talked” and “After We Talked” sound decidedly chip-tuney.
What makes this more than an ADD tour of contemporary musical fashions is Panda’s love for strong melodic material. He may try on musical genres like a little kid rifling through a trunk of costumes, but everything he does is infused with a dreamy, wistful, wide-eyed romanticism. If IDM is that pudgy guy with the thick glasses who won’t shut up about Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Gold Panda is the shy boy in the corner that somehow gets the coolest girl at the party to make him breakfast.