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Pantha Du Prince - Black Noise

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Artist: Pantha Du Prince

Album: Black Noise

Label: Rough Trade

Review date: Feb. 9, 2010

It’s hard to believe three years have elapsed since Hendrick Weber released a Pantha du Prince full-length. In his absence, there’s been no shortage of brooding, ethereal dance music to fill the void and bide out time, albeit not all of it as enduringly entrancing as the real deal. In fact, at times it seems Weber’s melange of the downcast and the dreamy have become dance music fixtures.

It’s’ no wonder then that Black Noise doesn’t immediately strike as anything different. Like a silk-lined igloo, it allows for the comfortable to coexist with the cold.

As techno’s Harry Partch, Weber prefers the tonalities of resonant, prepared objects. Throughout Black Noise there’s a sense of blocks and bars made of glass, metal, wood and stone clattering and clinking against each other in zero gravity. (In "Abglanz," even a steel drum gets whisked away in the whirling atmosphere.) Spacier than 2007’s momentously reverberant This Bliss, this new record has an open-air expansiveness (or perhaps that’s a side effect of glancing too long at the idyllic scene that encompasses its cover).

Many may approach Black Noise through "Stick to My Side," Weber’s collaboration with Noah Lennox/Panda Bear, whose Person Pitch namechecked Pantha on its liner notes. Likely one of the least interesting parts of Black Noise, the song stretches for nearly three minutes before Lennox comes in. His double-tracked vocals send dual melody lines twisting around each other like endless strands of DNA. Lennox himself seems particularly uninspired, intoning and droning on, as Weber’s track skates in place.

Look elsewhere for a more inspired bit of voice work. In "Behind the Stars," a drowning man tries to emerge from under a frittered layer of greasy bass and his smeared words pop like bubbles atop a crude oil slick. "Im Bann" is perhaps the most unwieldily experiment here. A slightly jazzy refrain from a crystalline guitar repeats as a voice strains to emerge from under a sandtrap of grainy distortion. Fennesz, it’s certainly not.

Thankfully, the rest of Black Noise manages to maintain an elegant balance of the concrete and the ephemeral. Amid the blustery rhythms, gusts of melody rush through in gasps. Weber’s compositions evoke the tolling of bells and the murmur of masonry instead of techno’s usual throbbing diodes and sinewy oscillations. I was most struck by the moment, halfway through "A Nomad’s Retreat", when the track is inverted and for a moment reveals the rusted machinery and creaking gears behind the glossy surfaces. It’s a startling lapse of steampunk crankiness for a record as smooth and undisturbed as a passing cloud.

By Bernardo Rondeau

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