He demonstrates a gift for generating heavily melodic mazes of sound.
Chris Power 2010-02-09
In 2007, This Bliss, German producer Pantha du Prince’s exquisite second album, stood out in what had become an increasingly sterile minimal house scene. In the time it’s taken follow-up Black Noise to arrive, minimal has ceded its throne to deep house as the dominant underground style, the record store racks groaning under the weight of tunes smothered in congas, organs, and all too many spoken-word reminders that what you’re listening to, in case you weren’t really sure, is ‘house music’.
None of which need bother Hendrik Weber, aka Pantha du Prince, who might have ascended during the minimal era but was clearly never attached to its coattails. His gift for generating heavily melodic mazes of sound, which remains intact on Black Noise, makes that certain. But the new album offers a different kind of experience to its predecessor. Whereas This Bliss was an immersive experience, its tracks almost operating as discrete movements in a totalised whole, Black Noise explores its different moods and textures in a more compartmentalised way.
The flickering glockenspiel tones and pattering beat of Lay in a Shimmer, as well as the growling bass and descending marimba melody of Abglanz, provide a bridge from This Bliss. Things take a significantly different turn with Stick to My Side, however, as Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear, delivers a plaintive vocal that works itself into a joyous loop above bumping analogue bass pulses.
After this striking highlight Black Noise glides into a slight lull that persists through the Underworld-like fidget of Satellite Snyper and the disappointingly anonymous electro house of Behind the Stars, which shows that when Weber promotes rhythm ahead of melody the effect can be underwhelming.
It’s with the album’s final trio that things return to the high standard of the first half. The vocal sighs, lush pads and subtle guitar elements of Welt am Draht contrast beautifully with the track’s spare, relentless rhythm, while the guitar sticks around for the brief strummed enchantment of Im Bann. Closing with the dizzying tintinnabulation of Es Schneit, a gentler cousin to Schiller’s 1999 progressive house monster Ruhe, Black Noise ends, fittingly, in the transporting, romantic mode it attains for an impressive proportion of its length.