Little of that has changed on Good Luck And Do Your Best. As the story goes: Derwin apparently went to Japan with photographer Laura Lewis, planning to collect field recordings and images for a so-called "sight and sound documentary," but the project turned into the makings of his next record. It's easy to imagine every Gold Panda album having started that way. 2013's Half Of Where You Live was largely built around recordings made while traveling the world, including Japan, so what's unique about Good Luck is how it sounds less like a specific place than a flurry of memories made there. Snatches of koto music, piano, guitar, vocals, strings and wooden percussion are scattered gracefully over MPC beats, or simply left as ambient collages. Tracks like "Halyards" and "Time Eater" are at once airy and adamant with their delicate dance floor energy, while "Metal Bird" uses glitchy micro samples like Axel Wilner expressing a love for Akira Kurosawa and J Dilla. Later, "In My Car" and "Your Good Times Are Just Beginning" go straight for kaleidoscopic hip-hop—they're striking enough to make you wonder why Gold Panda isn't regularly working with MCs.
When Gold Panda contributed "Black Voices" to this year's DJ Koze Presents Pampa Vol. 1, it was surprising to see his name next to the likes of Acid Pauli and Roman Flügel. But in light of Good Luck And Do Your Best, that understated dance track seems to have foreshadowed a new focus. Some album highlights—including "Chiba Nights," "Pink & Green" and "Autumn Fall"—are more in line with sample-centric house producers like Leon Vynehall and John Roberts than, say, the blunted beats of Shigeto or Teebs. (They make something as fiddly and juvenile as "Song For A Dead Friend" sound regressive by comparison.) Importantly, Good Luck also exudes an uplifting glow that brings to mind Japanese artist Gonno, whose life-affirming dance music appeals to the listener's sense of celebration and wonderment. Those feelings come easily while traveling—or dancing, for that matter—but will always resonate more strongly the better you know yourself.