Gold Panda - The Work Music Album Reviews

Gold Panda - The Work Music Album Reviews
After six years, Derwin Dicker returns to his primary project for a lush, sun-drenched set with a genuine emotional charge.

After his last album as Gold Panda, Derwin Dicker thought he might be done with the alias. The UK musician had made three full-lengths under that name, sampling thrift-store vinyl into wistful electronica that caught the light like a field of wheat at the golden hour. But after wrapping the third LP, 2016’s Good Luck and Do Your Best, he considered putting his signature palette out to pasture, along with some shopworn formats. “You know, 11-track albums with an arc, that’s over,” he declared.

For the next six years, Gold Panda mostly went dark as Dicker tried out new ideas. Some of his subsequent output didn’t fall too far from the tree: He and Simian Mobile Disco’s Jas Shaw teamed up as Selling for a 2018 album that, despite the absence of samples, shared Gold Panda’s genial gleam. But as DJ Jenifa, he opted instead for club-ready house bangers. He wandered even further afield as the semi-anonymous Softman, trading his trusty MPC for arcane software tools like Max and Pure Data, and ditching the secondhand wax in favor of bronze temple bells and coolly restrained minimal techno as frictionless and utilitarian as brushed stainless steel.

With The Work, Dicker returns to his principal project—and along with it, some old habits that he said he’d sworn off. Full of luminous harps, winsome vocal snippets, and the kind of gently swung rhythms that Saint Dilla set in stone, The Work is every bit as lush and sun-drenched as its predecessors. It also happens to be 11 songs long, with a neat, naturalistic, dawn-to-dusk arc. (Oops.) But whatever hopes of reinvention he might once have harbored, his return to his wheelhouse is hardly a bad thing; Dicker is, in fact, very good at being Gold Panda.

This sparkling strain of electronica, a lineage that descends through Boards of Canada and Four Tet, is an increasingly crowded lane, and in the hands of a less talented artist, it could easily turn to pastel mush. But despite the laid-back loops and unassuming air, Gold Panda’s music couldn’t easily be confused for mood-based playlist fodder. The grooves are too tangled, the tones too bruised. There’s a genuine emotional charge here, one that goes beyond the obvious nostalgia signaled by the crackle of scratchy vinyl. Clinging to his hangdog chord progressions and weeping-willow keyboards is a bittersweet air that suggests a guy not just idly jabbing at his drum pads but actively grappling with some heavy shit.

That subtle pathos reflects an important phase in Dicker’s life. After years of self-medicating his anxiety with alcohol, he is sober, in therapy, and father to two daughters. The album’s title is shorthand for “putting in the work”—the effort that goes into getting better. You wouldn’t necessarily know any of these biographical details from listening to the album, however; The Work doesn’t wear its mental-health themes on its sleeve. Instead, Dicker pours his energy into sound. Take “I’ve Felt Better (Than I Do Now)”: Despite the title, it’s the most upbeat piece on the album, whipping creamy Beach Boys harmonies into a giddy, house-adjacent anthem that sounds like DJ Koze on pep pills. A sugar rush of smeared chords and unnatural hiccups, it’s a celebration of the simple pleasure of stretching recorded sounds into improbable new shapes.

The first half of the album is particularly inspired. Following the slightly pro forma chimes of the opening “Swimmer,” The Work cracks wide open with “The Dream,” whose jabbing chords and staggered kicks are as jagged as the insides of a geode. “The Corner” pairs a splintered string section—imagine This Mortal Coil’s chamber ensemble chopped into kindling—with a yelpy, lovelorn vocal loop rescued from dollar-bin purgatory. And “Plastic Future” is a model of harmonic and textural economy, its harp melody, sandpapered drums, and ruminative synth arpeggio cycling each other like the elements of a Calder mobile. On the album’s back half, the balance between playfulness and moodiness occasionally tips too far toward the latter; the unguarded garishness of tracks like “The Corner” and “I’ve Felt Better” is missing, and I find myself wishing Dicker had allowed himself to get just a little weirder in these more muted, more indistinguishable tracks. Nevertheless, The Work holds together elegantly, moving from pick-me-up to gentle comedown, and at its peak affording a keen-eyed glimpse of a better self, a brighter world.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Gold Panda - The Work Music Album Reviews Gold Panda - The Work Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on January 18, 2023 Rating: 5


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