Panda Su
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Panda Su

Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom | SELF

Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom | SELF
Band Alternative Folk

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"GIG REVIEW: TARTAN HEART (BELLADRUM, Phoineas, by Beauly, 6-7 August 2010)"

Fife-based Panda Su offered an early evening stand out at the Seedlings Stage with a low-key, compelling set of beautifully somnolent sparsity which was stylistically striking and really quite beautiful indeed. Having recently returned from a successful European jaunt and having picked up some impressive exposure as a result of her material featuring in an episode of Skins, the future looks rather promising for this intriguing outfit. - Hi-Arts


"EP REVIEW: 'Sticks and Bricks' EP"

I fell for Panda Su in a big way earlier this year when I witnessed them opening for We Were Promised Jetpacks. After several intense, gorgeous shows this debut EP confirms Su and her cohorts as one of the most promising new bands around at the moment. The four songs on this recording are beguiling and haunting, catchy and unsettling in almost equal measures with an uncanny knack of worming their way into your psyche. Produced in collaboration with sometime Beta Band/King Biscuit Time member Steve Mason, Sticks And Bricks is a perfect package to introduce the talents of Panda Su to new listeners. Each song is a gentle, textured thing full of subtle flourishes and enchanting melodies topped off by Su’s distinctive, lovely voice. There are elements of folk, electronica and pop in here, occasionally reminding me of the brilliant Cat Power but ultimately Panda Su have their own original and compelling sound.

Opening song ‘Eric Is Dead’ starts with a simple drum pattern and plucked guitar note before the vocal comes in. It’s a subtle, moving song full of references to growing up, the loss of innocence and the struggle to return to less cynical ways of being as Su sings

Count your needs
And I’ll count mine
We’ll settle them in time.

The song has a lovely structure, moving along gently before dropping off with some sampled movie dialogue before building up into a dreamy, almost psychedelic ending with echo-laden vocals and melodica added to the mix giving it a glorious, slightly other-worldly feel. ‘Pot Kettle Black’ initially has a reflective, restrained feel as Su sings ‘Oh oh / It seems I’m just as dumb as the others’. Then the bass and drums kick in giving the song a lilting uplifting feel. A deliciously bittersweet song, ‘Pot Kettle Black’ slowly builds up, in parts hypnotic and gentle, at others subtly shifting shape and direction to create a compelling song full of hidden depths. Panda’s may seem cute and cuddly but they can also be deadly and the lyrics have a hard edge to them as they describe a careless, callous lover who is now with ‘another whore’.

‘Moviegoer’ has a darker feel with its lyrical imagery of conflict being off-set by another gorgeous tune with keyboards and glockenspiel adding to the guitar and percussion in a beautiful manner. There’s a defiant tone to the lyrics and delivery even when Su sings ‘The problem with myself is / That I long to be someone else’ the song is never solipsistic or self-indulgent. I love the way the song incorporates lot’s of tiny details to devastating effect and the end with the multiple vocals is a sheer delight which always moves me live and on this record. “My Sorry Little Heart’ starts of very serenely with the sound of birdsong and an acoustic guitar refrain. Initially it’s the most straightforward song on the EP, mainly Su, an acoustic guitar and some light percussion with some great picked guitar and percussion adding to the atmosphere before keyboards and effects give it a spacey feel with backing vocals coming at you from different speakers. Finally, after almost 6 minutes of silence there’s a treat / fright (depending on whether you’d been forewarned) in the shape of a different version of ‘Eric Is Dead’. This time it begins with some spooky electronics ebbing and flowing in repetitive waves then a pattering drum beat and disconnected voice before the song drifts in. The result is pretty fantastic, less of a remix than an almost entirely different version.

I thoroughly adore this EP with its gorgeous mix of sounds and textures. Each song keeps revealing additional levels while remaining catchy and endearing, initially sounding very simple and sparse but full of verve and imagination. A brilliant debut. - Is This Music?


"INTERVIEW: Panda Su: Black-Eyed Blues"

For the past couple of years, Fife lass Suzanne Shaw - AKA Panda Su - has been infiltrating the Scottish underground, winning and breaking the hearts of many with her bittersweet acoustic style. It looks like the songwriter's painted face is about to become unavoidable this year.
Like that scene at the start of The Wrestler, where Mickey Rourke tapes up his wounds backstage at a community centre, Suzanne Shaw has been known to hunch over bathroom sinks in countless beer-soaked venues for the past couple of years with similar focus, painstakingly painting her face like a panda. No, she's not crazy, nor is she some part-time childrens entertainer. She is, however, one of the most intriguing figures to waltz onto the Scottish circuit in recent times: She is Panda Su.

Far from the shock rock gimmickry of yore, Su's now almost trademark self-decoration is more a reflection of her dry humour, adding a darkly comic tone to her collection of pretty and often remarkably poignant acoustic numbers. However, if it's not meant as some kind of deliberate, albeit abstract selling point, then what exactly inspired Ms Shaw to emulate her doe-eyed muse? "Well, my own name was already in use by Suzanne Shaw who won Dancing on Ice," she laments. "I wanted the name Panda Bear but that had already been taken too. Then one day I was walking home from the park, I got on the wrong side of two girls and went home with two black eyes. The name Panda Su just sort of stuck."

Collaborating with close friends including producer and former Beta Band-er Steve Mason, Shaw – who hails from St Andrews – has spent the bulk of her time under this deceptively cuddly moniker crafting songs that boast both quirky idiosyncrasy and fragile balladry. Consequently, this quickly heralded an influx of attention and praise from her adopted Glasgow scene as well as many of her peers including fellow Fifers King Creosote and KT Tunstall; owing as much to her intimate live performances as her striking debut EP, Sticks And Bricks.

When describing her development as a songwriter, it all appears to be rather effortless, though just as playful and imaginative as you might expect: "I used to write my own lyrics to songs like Greensleeves and Edelweiss on my Yamaha keyboard when I was about 7 years old," says Shaw. "At 10 I started writing my own songs and would sing them to the other kids in my class. They would make up the backing track using their recorders. Then I spent the next 10 years honing my songwriting skills." And hone them she has.

Though previously self-released, Sticks and Bricks had its official digital release at the end of January. Now, with a trip to Europe and tentative festival dates in the works - already including a welcome return to the annual Fence 'Homegame' this month - as well as Shaw's keen desire to lock herself in her room and get cracking on the next release, the coming year is already looking to be busier and bigger for her bamboo-munching alter-ego. - The Skinny


"GIG REVIEW: Hinterland @ Various Venues, Glasgow, 3 April"

Skinny readers will already be familiar with Panda Su’s (A.K.A Suzanne Shaw – ****) die-hard commitment to her onstage uniform of an immaculately painted panda face. At Hinterland, her band mate Skeletor joins her, the most serious and scary looking man you’re ever likely to see in panda make-up. Far from a twee eccentricity, the panda faces surreally illustrate Panda Su’s beautifully dark pop songs, as earthy and richly textured as they are light and accessible. Shaw’s raw emotional honesty and blunt lyricism are framed with an impressive array of strange and wonderful instruments, most notably the percussion (from precariously balanced double xylophones to jumper-muted tom toms and heart-felt stamping). “I got lost again” she laments in the intimate, candle-clad setting of Pivo Pivo; no doubt the audience does too. [RB] - The Skinny


"GIG REVIEW: Classic Grand, Glasgow, Sun 1 Nov"

Panda Su is a Fife lass who creates an aura of mystery by painting her face to resemble our bamboo-munching chums. Sounding at times like a folkier Suzanne Vega, she plays a succession of endearing and original wee numbers, the highlight of which is ‘Eric Is Dead’, a deliciously slow-building chunk of dark pop. - The List Magazine


Discography

'Sticks & Bricks' EP - Released 2009

'Eric is Dead' BBC Intro.. with Vic Galloway - June 2009

'Eric is Dead' used on season finale of SKINS, Channel 4 + E4 - March 2010

'Eric is Dead' BBC Intro.. 6 Music with Tom Robinson - October 2010

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'Alphabet Song' - BBC Intro.. 6 Music with Bethan Elfyn/Tom Robinson - March 2011

'I Begin' EP - Released April 2011

Photos

Bio

PANDA SU could be described as something of an enigma. Half Portuguese, born in the rural Highlands of Scotland and having spent her formative years deep in the forests of Fife, she found her own voice in 2009 with the release of the critically acclaimed 'Sticks & Bricks' EP, and is now set to release her follow-up 'I Begin' EP on 18th April 2011.

One of life's interlopers, her music stands on the edge of reason, where Su looks into the precipice with a wry smile and a nervous anticipation that is mirrored in her lyrics. Darkly fascinating, she weaves her spell with a recipe of childlike simplicity that is nothing less than compelling.

Awarded "Best Newcomer" in the 2010 Jockrock Scottish Music Industry Awards, PANDA SU has gained a worldwide following, through her constant touring & festival appearances. The inclusion of her song Eric is Dead in the Finale of Skins Season 4 has taken PANDA SU's appeal to a far greater audience.

Her new EP, I Begin is a collection of recordings made with producer Robin Sutherland in Dundee over Christmas 2010. Yet again, PANDA SU has managed to pull off a delicious slice of dark pop devised to disarm the listeners' subconscious.

Bee Song leads the way and lulls the listener in with a false sense of familiarity. The song is a delightful gateway into the deep and highly complex mind of PANDA SU, but exactly who, or what the bee is must be left open to individual interpretation.

I Begin is a song which, until now, hasn't seen the light of day. Beautifully hypnotic, it makes use of a choir of schoolchildren in an enchanting mantra that sits comfortably alongside the dark electronica that is fast becoming a trademark of PANDA SU.

The EP is completed with studio recordings of two songs, which surfaced during her gigs and festival appearances of summer 2010. Alphabet Song and Facts and Figures were a must for inclusion in this collection of recordings.

I Begin EP is released worldwide on 18 April 2011, but for those who can't wait until then, the CD will be on sale exclusively at PANDA SU's gigs and mini tour during February / March 2011.