Sunday, 20 September 2009

Past times and Gold Panda

Seven-inch singles are all kinds of ace in all kinds of ways. I’ve just been reacquainted with this fact after a good year or so without any additions to my (admittedly pretty tiny) collection. Going back through the pile of forty or so it reads like a map of my changing musical tastes over the last seven or so years – from the first one I ever bought (Hell Is For Heroes’ ‘I Can Climb Mountains’, in fact – still great), through a healthy dose of Blood Brothers, a bit of psych-folk (Devendra Banhart, Espers – still great) and eccentric oddities (Semifinalists’ ‘You Said’, Munch Munch’s ‘Wedding’ – still great).

Semifinalists - 'You Said'

Earlier this week I picked up Gold Panda’s ‘Quitters Raga’, and it’s served as a perfect reminder of everything that’s great about the format. The title track is short, almost to the point of teasing, perfectly formed and drenched in the kind of kitsch and nostalgic feeling that almost inevitably accompanies dropping the needle onto a 45. Its central theme is a snippet of Indian raga, a slithering and pretty melody line that rises and falls as though alive and breathing – but awash in vinyl crackle and tape disintegration, out of focus but still vividly coloured, as though recorded off an ancient cassette player. As a result the melody itself feels little more than a memory, a tiny fragment half-recalled after returning from abroad that sticks in the mind and rattles around your consciousness for months after.

B-side ‘Fifth Avenue’ is a little closer to the material on his recent Miyamae 12”, an indistinct twilight haze set to a microscopic beat that rushes past, throwing up great splashes from the roadside like traffic in a tropical storm. There’s something about Gold Panda’s music that captures that exhilarating feeling when traveling of being immersed in a world both new and undiscovered yet strangely familiar in odd ways. Listening is a little like flicking though your photo albums months later and being reminded of all the little things you forgot. Miyamae is much the same – the 4/4 kick of ‘Back Home’ is surrounded by an almost overwhelmingly busy soundspace of samples, clicks and tiny traces of life, and ‘Miyuri’ sets a glorious Oriental cadence to panicked and glitchy percussion.

There’s already such a host of ideas packed into the five tracks spread across these two singles that it seems unlikely any further material from him will be less than intriguing. They’re both very much worth seeking out.

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