Hailing from Chelmsford in Essex, but newly located to Hamburg, Germany, Gold Panda started writing beats and collaborating a few years ago, working with the likes of Infinite Livez and Shuttle (both Ninja Tune) as well as creating his own material.
Having spent downtime behind the counters of various establishments he consolidated the rest of his hours creating archives of electronic music; each track different from the other, incorporating multitudes of styles and disparate influences and obscure samples and base material. Having sated the need to create these volumes of material, he poked his head into the world by way of a collection of instantaneously raved-about remixes, that quickly found the interested of various labels, blogs and taste makers, leading to requests for him to re-edit the likes of Little Boots, Telepathe, Bloc Party, Simian Mobile Disco, Health and The Field.
In the meantime, Gold Panda began culling his back-archive of material for a series of low key releases: the first was 'Miyamae', a 12" on Various, followed by the 'Quitters Raga' 7" on Make Mine, and the third, 'Before' was released digitally and on 250 limited CDs via Puregroove. Now having essentially cleared the decks.
In October 2010, Gold Panda released his debut album Lucky Shiner. A culmination of years of work spent refining his sui generis sound, the record was released to huge critical acclaim. An artist at ease traversing genre boundaries in search of new auditory frontiers – whether mixing dissected Hip Hop beats or the pulsating flourishes of minimal Techno – this apropos release will cement the foundations laid by previous output and visions whilst expanding his canon to unparalleled limits. As electronic music gradually arcs into a period of unprecedented successes, Lucky Shiner pits GP firmly at the forefront of a new wave of artists unafraid to challenge preconceptions of what music can be.
Mixed by Simian Mobile Disco's sonic veteran James Shaw and recorded in two session spent in the shady retreat of the English countryside – at his Aunt and Uncle's Essex home – after, as GP explains "they went away over Christmas for two weeks and asked me to look after their dog. I'd walk Daisy in the morning and then make tunes till she pestered me to take her out again, I'd bounce down what I'd done, stick my headphones on and walk her; get ideas and repeat the process." The end result is an album as influenced by family as it is by the quickly flashing topography that stretches out of train windows. GP's mesmerising attention to sound and detail means each beat resonates as past, reflects the present and looks forwards to the potential futures of the individual; listener and artist alike.
Having been nominated as one of the BBC's sound of 2010 contenders, he spent the year playing shows around the world with Caribou, Health, SMD and Autolux, finding himself on magazine covers in the UK, US, Japan and Europe. 2011 has seen further shows in Australia, US and Europe. The rest of this summer will see Gold Panda playing at the likes of Glastonbury (UK), Roskilde (BE), Latitude (UK), Sasquatch (US), Melt (DE) and Primavera (SP).
Lucky Shiner's the piece that completes the picture. Originating in crystal clear vision, the nuance and frenetic cadence of life and the mind's constant disequilibrium means its final realisation stands as a product that'll provoke thought as much as enjoyment; pathos as much as praise. "Lots of factors affected the way it came together." Gold Panda explains, "touring, mixing, moving house and splitting with a girlfriend. Family, friends and lovers related, places I've never been".
Decamping to an idyllic retreat also means the album bears trademarks of a pastorally hued Englishness, whist's also coloured by GP's two years spent studying Japanese culture, language and history at the School of Oriental and Asian studies in Japan. 'You', 'Parents' (featuring a field recording of GP helping his grandma push a wheelbarrow in the garden ), 'Marriage'. Lucky Shiner overflows with life. Disengaging with the need for vocal, GP intimates, makes intimate idea's immeasurably expressive and does so whilst always retaining an unfettered ear for melody. "I didn't want to write 'beats'" he says about the album, "I didn't want bangers. I wanted songs with structure."
With, as he say's, "two tracks made from a broken Yamaha organ bought for 99p off Ebay. A lot of the drum sounds just vinyl crackle turned really loud", and one featuring almost solely guitar, "I don't play guitar", the album's a concrete introduction to an artist willing to slip mercury like through constraints of genre, form and concept. And the title's origins? "Lucky Shiner is my grandmothers name. Sometimes I think she knows exactly how I feel without me even mentioning anything to her." Deeply personal then, Gold Panda's at odds to express that unequivocally on the album. Instead, he say's it "would be nice if people could hear the tracks and attach their own significance to them".
Over forty tracks eventually extricated into eleven, cohesion found through the unified fragments that "went together. I wanted a beginning, middle and end" – feelings eventually became sounds, visions graduated into awareness. Do what the artist wants and attach your own significance, if meaning is in nature indeterminate, personal experience can do ought but help.
Lucky Shiner went on to be one of the most lauded records of 2010, culminating in the winning of the Guardian newspaper's prestigious First Album Award – following on from the inaugural claiming of that trophy by the XX. New material is set to follow in 2011.
Artists take on pseudonyms for a multitude of reasons, but in Zach Saginaw's case, those reasons run deeper than most. Zach records under the name Shigeto. It's his middle name; it's also his grandfather's name, a tribute to the Japanese branch of Zach's family tree. Shigeto also means "to grow bigger"—appropriate, given Zach's premature birth-weight of less than a pound. Today, Shigeto stands for Zach's vividly beautiful electronic music. Beat-driven but given to richly textured sound design, rhythmically fractured but melodically sumptuous, Shigeto's music is a bridge between the past and present, bringing the artist face to face with a creative legacy that spans decades.
Zach's body of work has grown over the last few years to the tune of several EPs on Moodgadget as Shigeto and with A Setting Sun, a pair of EPs under the alias Frank Omura (another family-name reference), and remixes for Worst Friends, Praveen & Benoit, Tycho, Mux Mool, Charles Trees, A Setting Sun, Beautiful Bells, Shlohmo, and more. The Semi-Circle EP will be his first release with Ghostly International; the full-length Full Circle is on the horizon. Semi-Circle is a fiercely independent work of art, nominally indebted to instrumental hip-hop but, like Zach, straddling many worlds at once. Cool shades of ambient music, stuttering early IDM, dubstep sub-bass, and jazz melodicism color Shigeto's palette, which he wields with a painterly attention to detail.
"Thomas Mullarney III and Jacob Gossett are Beacon, a Greenpoint-based duo steeped in '90s and contemporary R&B, IDM, and bass music. Moodgadget is set to release Beacon's No Body EP, the project's second collection of songs to triangulate those worlds into a sensual, downtempo electronic mesh of lush synths and lusty falsetto. It's How To Dress Well with slightly less BMG CD club R&B, slightly more Warp Records infusion. No Body is lights-down music, ambient-pop for the unrequited, the logical result of years absorbing Boards Of Canada and Postal Service, Matthew Dear and Karin Dreijer Andersson, The-Dream and Ginuwine." - Stereogum