The endangered giant panda. The vulnerable red panda. But, the most rare variety of all, the elusive Gold Panda, emerged under the cover of a hooded sweatshirt (as is his nature) at the Independent Tuesday night, drawn out by the lure of a MPC, samples, and a sold out crowd.
Gold Panda’s music runs between melancholy and exuberance. Even when the BPM picks up on one level and the notes get more and more chopped up, the speedy, aggressive current that runs through so much electronic music never emerges. Maybe it’s the slow drone or the endless, never collapsing crashes that seem to be in the background of most of his songs, a building hypnotic tension behind his beats. (Hypnotic that is, until a quick little break comes around, smacks you in the ear, and leaves like nothing happened.)
As the UK/Germany based musician (“real” name Derwin Panda) played a fairly long set, covering most of the material off his LPs Lucky Shiner and Companion, the music seemed natural and organic, but also utterly inhuman. When voices appear, they’re abstracted, like the foreign ragas or the dissected “you.” (No setlist for this one; knowing the title of “I Suppose I Should Say ‘Thanks’ Or Some Shit”, contributes little to the appreciation, and is arguably distracting.) The stage setup was simple with some LED string lights and a paper lantern, but the live visuals by Ronni Shendar complemented the emotional mood of the songs perfectly, with found typographic examples, oceanic and urban triptychs, and some nature shots deserving of Attenborough.
Blackout Make Out wins the best name award. A shaggy haired, jeans-clad, sunglassed, mustachioed, local singer songwriter sang ballads, sustaining notes on the electric guitar over synthetic beats. “Do you, you run away? Will you, will you stay?” At times a little ooh-ooh moan-y, but dude wasn’t afraid to let his guitar go to work over a building four-to-the-floor bass beat. Some cool moments sounded like he was having a conversation with his instrument, or more appropriately, arguing that no one is broken hearted like a man in denim.
At the conclusion of Jonti, a guy behind me said, “It was like a Rain Man set.” Burn, dude. That’s a little harsh, but I knew when Jonti, hailing from South Africa, took off his shoes right before starting, that it was going to be an idiosyncratic performance. Charmingly awkward, he lost a lot of momentum in his mic breaks, and was then be faced with the hard labor up building it back up. But there was a joy in watching Jonti get into his own distinctive beats enough to not just put words together but actually sing. Better than counting matchsticks.