Gold Panda - Good Luck And Do Your Best

by Matthew Graham

Drawing its title from a charming farewell remark made by a Hiroshima taxi-driver, Good Luck And Do Your Best is the fourth studio album from soft-electronica producer Gold Panda. Unlike his previous dance focussed sound, the record opts for a much more laid back approach, venturing towards a fuzzier house style. The result is a compendium of warm and airy tracks that detail the producer’s travels through Japan alongside photographer friend Laura Lewis. The duo’s original intentions were to make a “sight and sound documentary”, yet as this failed to surface, Good Luck And Do Your Best offers an alternative to what could have been, by drawing inspiration from Lewis’s pictures back home in Chelmsford. One thing Gold Panda has certainly mastered here is the crafting of an impeccably coherent conceptual drive on the record. Indeed his latest work offers a compelling foray into current electronic music combined with a (strangely personal) travel journal quality.

Good Luck And Do Your Best is unsurprisingly full of skipping drum lines and wistful reverb. Yet, while the producer entices his audience with the repetitive building synth hooks, they are often over simplified and miss the catchiness of similar artists such as Caribou. Indeed this comes across in places as lack lustre. For those who struggle with lyric-less music, Gold Panda’s relentless ‘wob-wob’ undertones become an indefinite source of tedium. However, if you’re willing to look past this aspect, the record proves to be a pleasant sonic translation of Japan’s rural landscapes. Indeed each track contains plenty of oriental flecks, infusing traditional melodies and plucked strings into the album’s ambient rapport and providing a sense of consistency. It’s impossible not to get lost in Gold Panda’s delicate vibrancy, demonstrated best by the lapping guitars and sampled croaks of I Am Real Punk.

There are also instances where, dare I say it, a mainstream influence can be heard. Indeed Autumn Fall contains radio-friendly elements which utilise a somewhat indie sounding riff, creating a pleasing manner to the latter portion of the album. While Chiba Nights bounces with the trendy 90’s club flair, which Gold Panda successfully reworks into his low-fi style. That being said, Good Luck And Do Your Best also demonstrates a few cases where he fails hit the mark. Song For A Dead Friend’s overly frantic drums adds an ill-fitting scattiness to the otherwise chilled out tones of the record. It buzzes uncomfortably like a hyperactive child, devoid of any sombre connotations one might expect from the song’s title. If anything, it feels too aggressive. While reversely, Unthank’s eerie synths stumble through a sleepy emptiness, reducing an already relaxed album to a halt one stop too early before the end.

On the whole, Good Luck And Try Your Best is an impeccably confident release from a house producer who clearly knows what he’s doing. Despite the record’s more subdued quality, Gold Panda’s recognisable staccato electronica still bubbles under the surface throughout, providing enough of a pull factor for fans. His success undoubtedly lies in the strength of the thematic cohesion between each track, backed up by faultless production. Without the Japanese influence, I wonder whether Good Luck And Try Your Best would simply drift apart into an ambient haze of directionless loops. Certainly there will be those who consider this to be the case with this genre anyway.