If you've been one whose faith in the format has been shaken in recent years, this latest installment will do little to fully restore it. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with Gold Panda's selection per se: from the get go, we're offered minimal techno from Melchior & Prosanto next to proper, old-skool electro (Bok Bok, Drexciya), and their entangling obviously comes from a producer's perspective: adroit, meticulous and insistent on tiny hooks, no matter how skewed. The mix's very first cut is a Gold Panda exclusive (the rather lovely, if slightly reserved, "An Iceberg Hurled Northward Through Clouds"), and it's all about delicate chimes and restrained clicks. You have to wait for Muslimgauze's "Uzi Mahmood" (and the accompanying, clever transition to the Untold remix of Ramadanman's "Revenue") and Pawel's "Coke" for the mood to get more percussive but also a shade difficult (something the IDM-meets-dubstep of SND's "Palo Alto" and Zomby's "Godzilla" only help enhance).
Closer Musik's now decade-old "Maria" offers a sense of relief from all this sonic bellicosity, and it sits perfectly well next to Gold Panda's own introspective yet dance-y, Superpitcher-like "Back Home." But the mix's acme doesn't last very long, and we quickly change to a stillness-bound mood with Christopher Rau's aptly titled "Do Little," Jan Jelinek "If's, And's and But's" and Nao Tokui's "Monolith." These choices all make for a lackluster sequence from which the mix never full recovers. Sigha and Opiate don't help to lighten the mood, and even more upbeat cuts from 2562 and Matthewdavid can't help salvage the overall impression of a missed connection. By the time the mix enters its coda with the liquefied bass lines of Autistici, LV & Untold and Giuseppe Ielas, as lavish as it all sounds (especially the latter's "2," which comes across as a perfect, emotional muddle of organized white noise), you're just not paying close attention anymore.
We keep hearing—still—about the imminent demise and overall obsolescence of the mix CD format. But the reason that the DJ-Kicks series has remained relevant is that even at its so-called worst, it was still saying something about the overall state of electronic dance music. With Gold Panda's entry—despite its cleverness and state-of-the-art, diverse penchants—you're left with the impression the famous !K7 cycle has nothing more this time than a muted episode on its hands.