Review: Gold Panda – Good Luck And Do Your Best


Gold Panda’s latest album – following 2010’s Lucky Shiner and 2013’s Half of Where You Live – was built upon a chance encounter with a taxi driver in Hiroshima whose parting words came from a mistranslated Japanese greeting: ‘good luck and do your best’. This was the creative starting point for an intricate, emotionally resonant record with a distinctively warmer and more welcoming sound. 

Derwin Panda’s music has always been inspired by his fascination with travel, found in the sonically rich worldly palette of his previous releases from songs like ‘Brazil’ to ‘India Lately’.  This time Japan is the focus of his attention and his latest release is coloured by a soft-focused, romantic warmth inspired by the idiosyncratic sights and sounds of a trip to Japan he set out on two years ago to gather field recordings and pictures, accompanied by photographer Laura Lewis.

He says: ‘Japan has this light that we don’t get here. It’s hard to explain. You know how LA has this dusk feeling? – that orange light that makes the place glow, and the neon signs? Well, Japan has this… at certain times of the year, it has this filter on stuff.’ From this a subtler record emerges, attenuating itself to capturing the hazy, delicate atmosphere of Japan, songs that colour in the feeling found in witnessing the ephemeral pink and green light unique to its time and place.

Opener ‘Metal Bird’ has a slow, stuttering start, as a vocal loop and dreamlike melody begin to emerge and synth and strings join in; the track melds into ‘In My Car’ where horn accents, strings and pulsing synth rhythms gently unfold to create a rich, woozy atmosphere. ‘Chiba Nights’ is an uptempo track driven by piano and Japanese inspired sounds coming together; ‘Pink and Green’ floats along as dreamily as the indescribable dusky light he attempts to capture sonically, soft chimes sparkling prettily before extinguishing themselves. Lead single ‘Time Eater’ lulls you in with its rhythmic buildup, its lush strings rising and falling like a heartbeat, skittering percussion slowly sweeps the song into a heady, atmospheric landscape, transporting you towards some feeling you can’t quite define.

The attempt to capture this glowing, sunset-like sound is found throughout in the reverb-drenched ambience of these songs, creating a record which ebbs and flows in a steady, coalescing way his previous efforts didn’t quite attain. Lacking the instantaneous pull of his debut and the darker, more techno-influenced sophomore effort, it retains Panda’s nostalgic, introspective sense of sound and envisions the quiet joy omnipresent in the everyday. Derwin says it is a ‘motivational and positive’ record, and even in the reflective stillness of some of the record’s songs (‘I am Real Punk’, ‘Unthank’), there is an ongoing sense of vitality present, the present opening up like a promise found in a twilit moment. Closer ‘Your Good Times are Just Beginning’ resonates with this sense of serene joyousness, uplifting, warm brass and piano sounds seamlessly blending into synths to make a graceful exit. ‘Good Luck and Do Your Best’ is perhaps Derwin Panda’s most understated record, but nonetheless remains as sonically self-assured as its predecessors, marking a fresh new direction for the electronic artist and producer. 

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