Reviewed by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
Derwin Dicker’s fourth album under the Gold Panda alias arrives with a new outlook from the producer on looking after his mental health.
In a refreshingly frank press release, he talks of the difficulty of looking after a new person with the birth of his first daughter, and the challenges that brought to his own self-care. In particular he refers to a eureka moment in a Japanese hotel, where he realised the destructive aftereffects of alcohol on his wellbeing. The album’s title The Work reflects the efforts made to look at things from a different perspective, and a self-help program including therapy, running, pilates and an osteopath.
Dicker has always been very open about his state of mind and its influence on his music, and now it looks as though he has arrived at a happy place. “I don’t know where I fit in”, he says, “and maybe that’s good.”
What’s the music like?
A breath of fresh air – but one that draws in oxygen from more than one continent.
After a gentle start on Swimmer, where electronic waves lap at an imaginary shore, The Dream introduces bright colours and easy beats, along with a vibrant harp solo that adds a distinctly Eastern colour.
This inter-continental approach has always been one of Gold Panda’s strongest qualities, and it proves to be the case once again here. Similarly his awareness of instrumental colour leads to consistently fresh approaches, giving his sound a bright treble and a wide, open-air perspective.
The beatless Anima reflects this with some lovely colours, while deeper shades run through Chrome. The Want is built on a distracted loop that acquires a jumpy, energetic rhythm and bass line, as though two songs have merged from different directions. One is drowsy and the other energetic, leading to a strange but invigorating tension in the middle, topped again by electronic harp.
I’ve Felt Better (Than I Do Now) is more club-based, powered by a four to the floor rhythm and with several interlocking hooks before cutting to slower, more exotic passage. Perhaps the best track is Plastic Future, a multi-layered track mixing percussive thoughts and a high harp line, shot through with warm keyboards in the centre – a feeling on which New Days and I Spiral capitalize.
Does it all work?
It does. Dicker’s music never feels too processed, with a freshness running through the textures akin to opening the curtains for the first time on a sunny day.
Is it recommended?
Yes, enthusiastically. The Gold Panda body of work is consistently stimulating, and this colourful album is one of Derwin Dicker’s finest achievements within that.