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Prins Thomas - Prins Thomas

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Artist: Prins Thomas

Album: Prins Thomas

Label: Full Pupp

Review date: Apr. 8, 2010

Prins Thomas is chillin’. Just land your gaze on the schlubby, smiling man beaming contentedly at you, slightly out of focus, from the cover of this album and rest assured that you are in good, unhurried hands. After all, this is the man who has waited years - the earliest date on his massive Discogs page is 1998 - to release his debut album, despite enough musical activity to warrant "disco superstar" status (well, at least in his press release). In an age where the artistic underground is generally hellbent on hype and celebrity, it’s comforting to see someone taking their sweet time, letting things come at their own pace. After a couple of stellar collaborations with fellow-Norwegian Lindstrøm and about a million DJ mixes, 12"s and remixes, the arrival of a proper album of his own seems less like a major event than a nice, perhaps quaint, addition to an already-hefty body of work.

Certainly the music is in keeping with this pattern. Rather than throwing himself at you, Thomas keeps his cool, allowing ideas - lots of ideas - plenty of time to mix, congeal, build, stay put, and generally do their thing. Instead of a collection of hooky bangers, Thomas rides the space train to infinity and beyond.

The sensibility here is unequivocally that of the DJ; extension and flow is the name of the game, and one can easily imagine Thomas working these tracks into his set, cutting the bass here, throwing a little flanger on there, and generally stretching everything way out. To that end, the musical language reads like a CliffsNotes roundup of the past 40-ish years of cosmic explorations: some shimmery disco, some gently-driven soft rock, a touch of classic cop movie synthesizer, and lots of Michael Rother-isms. Indeed, Neu! would seem to be a major axis around which many of these songs turn, with Can’s most elastic moments coming in right on their heels. "Ørkenvandring" and "Uggebugg" in particular feature some beautiful, chiming guitar work that would have found a happy home in Germain countryside some 35 years ago, but that doesn’t mean it’s exactly retro. Rather, Thomas, like many great DJs before him, illuminates a secret history of funkiness across a range of non-dance genres and draws explicit connections between seemingly-disparate ideas and styles. The result is thoroughly modern, but with the look and feel of something old, lost or past.

What gives the game away, and what also makes it worth listening to instead of (or in addition to) all those referenced classics are the curve balls Thomas throws into the mix. There’s hints of Hawaiian guitar on "Nattonsket," weird buzzing cable static on "Slangemusikk," and an overall tension between deep relaxation and audio vertigo, as the songs teeter and dangle close to the edge of formless chaos. But, like a slow-cooked stew, these myriad flavors begin to blend in intriguing, exciting ways the longer you listen. When the goofy "bum ba bum ba bum" chant came in during album-closer "Attiatte," I was at first skeptical, but as it slowly sank in and took hold I was surprised to find myself mouthing along. The secret ingredient is definitely the drumming, which appears to flow pleasantly enough in the background until you hone in on it. Although hardly slamming, there’s a just-hidden push and throb across the board that anchors the tunes and elevates things above pleasant chill-out to a more insistent higher ground.

This is not to say that every second of Prins Thomas is brimming with focused intention. More than once I felt myself checking the clock, wondering what exactly was happening, or was let down by a jammy section that faded away without really fulfilling its promise. Still, that would seem to be part and parcel with Thomas’ method - one key place where he diverges from Neu! is that he’s no minimalist. Space is undoubtedly the place here, and if at times you’re left floating, it’s balanced out by lots of good loopy vibes and a couple of jaw-dropping moments of inspiration. Besides, it’s not like there’s any searing walls of noise or whatever; the more aimless parts remain enjoyable enough to carry you to the next peak. It’s chill...

By Daniel Martin-McCormick

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