Suren Seneviratne has, as My Panda Shall Fly, released dozens of tracks across the last few years, an established part of London’s underground dance/electronica scene. But Too is the debut full-lengther, and it’s full of wonderful sounds and ideas. My Panda was a band but Seneviratne is the sole surviving member, turning it into his project. That said, Too works due to a rotating roster of guest vocalists, Katherine Joyce on Asylum channelling some of the magic in the early Tricky/Martina Topley-Bird collaborations, Rudi Zygadlo on Adhesive has that Jono McCleery-like ability to touch on the wafting, floating and ethereal but add some real substance.
My Panda’s tracks are delicate, sometimes – as with Adhesive – they are barely there. Nearly beat-less and more a series of subtly connected textures that work to guide a blindfolded vocalist through a corridor of found-sounds, always stopping to softly tap a shoulder and whisper where a melody might be.
The cascading Intro falls over into True which starts the album in a so-so, yet another abstraction of trip-hop, but from there, as new voices are added and layers pile up, Too becomes something of a real journey. Backwards is some sort of middle-ground between Wild Bunch upstarts and Burial, hints of the grime that manifested through those early hip-hop-blends-with-trip-hop associations. It’s soft trance on Suddenly! And softer shoes shuffled down the streets, creeping along with Light Under The Door. It’s only when the Karen Gwyer-assisted Overcast signals something more, suggests that, much like the more café-friendly Aim of a decade or so ago, this really is about collaborations, that Too really starts to take shape; starts to feel particularly satisfying. Before it was good, but it heads towards great with the help of the Joyce and Zygadlo tracks. From there it’s on to the chilled-out late-night fixes Lapalux so skilfully serves when HowAboutBeth joins for Squeeze. We’re caught between the worlds of Everything But The Girl on the one hand (this is so pleasant, though never unctuously polite) and the grimier Ghostpoet on the other.
It’s almost as if My Panda Shall Fly transports us to the softer, stylish moods of the likes of Royksopp and co from a decade or so ago, but only by fluke, and only via the medium of today’s music-making. Little hints and nods, but this couldn’t have been made then, it isn’t even vaguely contemporaneous it is quietly, sometimes spookily, always joyously its own concoction.