Pantha Du Prince Black Noise(Rough Trade) Buy it from Insound
I've found it hard to really get under the skin of this record. However I try, it seems to elude me, skipping away into the distance in a fog of tumbling, twinkling sequencer patterns. For a record with such high expectation, his first for Rough Trade, it seems Pantha Du Prince, aka Germany's Hendrick Weber, has somehow lost his way. This is all somewhat strange considering This Bliss, Weber's 2007 breakout record, enjoyed near-constant rotation on my mp3 player of choice, becoming a trusty companion on dark train journeys and those muted wanderings that take place to and from work. Where that album bubbled and spat like hot fat, its meticulous construction overflowing with polyrhythms, Black Noise seems disjointed and overlong even though it runs for roughly the same duration.
On This Bliss, with its interlocking, delicately conceived layers and 4/4 solidity, the listener could not help but be dragged along into the delightfully unfolding world of sound. For first three tracks of Black Noise, Weber sounds like he's just warming up, throwing around loose ideas, going through the motions. The Splendour, released as part of an EP in December last year, apparently features a member of LCD Soundsystem, not that you can tell. It meanders along aimlessly, lacking anything solid to define its identity and reel you back in for more. By the time Animal Collective's Panda Bear pops to add his annoyingly distant nasal charm to Stick To My Side the signs are not good. It feels cheap. It screams 'indie crossover'. Its repetitive lyrics jar. All quite disappointing from a producer whose name was built on the intelligent construction of flowing instrumental music. Why then the need to throw this bad idea into an already successful mix?
Around the halfway point things seem to get back on track with A Nomad's Retreat. The right gear is engaged, the production sounds full and fresh... And then Satellite Sniper's wonderful rising/falling melody line drops into some deep treated vocal loop that seems to be going on about someone's Volvo and makes me feel like I'm in a bad Blade Runner sideshow. Its use is reminiscent of Double Checked from Sashca Funke's excellent Mango. Whereas the effect was used sparingly there and was well suited to the track's dark mood, here we get some sort of oddly skewed attempt at a Kraftwerk homage that then thankfully spends its final three-and-a-half minutes evolving into something much more worthy, almost as if a completely separate track had begun. Bizarre. And I think that's a good word to sum up this album; an attempt to experiment with an already- solid formula, introducing a more organic version of his trademark 'twinkle' and lacing it with unnecessary foreign embellishments. There's no reason to be limited by the realisation that you have a style or a sound. Take Anders Ilar; the relatively unknown Swede has released some of the most creative and interesting ambient-techno ever produced (see the excellent Sworn) but I'm willing to wager you will never see him sticking Noah Lennox on a track in the hope a few Animal Collective fans will take the bait.
It’s the last few tracks that are the strongest for my money. Bohemian Forest zips along with some nice glockenspiel-esque rumblings, Welt Am Draht gives us a glimpse of what this record could have been with a mature, progressive choral vibe while Im Bann and Es Schniet showcase Weber's hazy, ambient leanings perfectly well. A rather multi-headed beast then, containing a variety of moods that to me don't sit all that well together. It only leaves me wondering how good this record could have been instead of enthusing excitedly about how good it actually is.