Subdued glicthy sweeping electronica from the prince, on this his landscape inspired LP from 2010.

‘Black Noise’

Pantha du Prince – ‘Black Noise’ 2010

Rough Trade Records 2010

Vinyl (x2) / mp3 / CD

Track List –

Side 1.

1. Lay In A Shimmer     (6:38)

2. Abglanz     (6:04)

3. The Splendour     (6:00)

Side 2.

1. Stick To My Side     (7:51)

2. A Nomads Retreat     (6:41)

3. Satellite Synper     (5:29)

Side 3.

1. Behind The Stars    (6:51)

2. Bohemian Forest     (7:24)

3. Welt Am Draht     (7:11)

Side 4.

1. Im Bann     (3:23)

2. Es Schneit     (6:46)

Personal –

Hendrik Weber – Composer, Sampler, Programming

Stephan Abry – Field Recording, Session Playing

Noah Lennox – Co-wrote and Vocal on ‘Stick To My Side’

Taylor Pope – Bass Guitar on ‘The Spendour’

Joachim Schutz – Field Recording, Session Playing

The cover of sonic house champion Panthu du Prince’s latest release ‘Black Noise’, sports a fetching oil painted Alpine lake shore landscape. A gentle wash laps at the embankment, which features a set of pale painted buildings, reminiscent of those old peasants holy shrines found in rural Russia.Looming over this sedate scene is a breathtaking but daunting majestic mountain range bearing down upon the small conspicuous hamlet below, full of natural foreboding awe and menace. At any moment a terrifying landslide, unleashed from above, could disturb this whole pastoral scene. The only witnesses being two insignificant figures rowing a boat across the placid lake. This work of art perfectly summarises the album, instant man made electronics pitted against the alluring but dangerous scenery, where sound recordings of this mountainous panorama have been taken and used to add atmosphere.

Pantha du Prince is the alter ego for the German electronic musician Hendrik Weber, whose previous minimal soundtrack albums were released on his own underground imprint Dial until this welcome leap onto Rough Trade.For ‘Black Noise’ our prince is joined by some friends including Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox, also know as Panda Bear, and both !!! and LCD Soundsystem’s bass player Taylor Pope. Also lending support are fellow electronic musos and sound collage enthusiasts Stephan Abry, from Workshop, and Joachim Schutz, from the Arnold Dreyblatt Trio. Along side the prince they recorded a series of sessions on location in the Swiss Alps, collecting both natural sounds and playing amongst the Schuttwald Atzmannig-Swiss backdrop. A catastrophic landslide created this region in 1816, totally destroying the humble tugged away village below in the ravine. The ghostly presence of this now 200-year-old tragedy is embraced throughout the entire LP, lingering and occupying every track with traces of unsettling whispers and disturbing movement. The general feel is circa 1990-93 intelligent minimal techno, the sort of music found on Warp’s early Artificial Intelligence compilations and Belgium label R&S as well as the more serene Carl Graig. More recent comparisons can be made with both Boards Of Canada and Four Tet, their sound eerily familiar when listening to this record. Every articulate beat is synchronised to the nth degree, with tight intricate washes of bleeps and clicks that never quite break out. Subtle deft touches steer each track along a pre-ordained pathway, hypnotising the traveller with the ongoing sweeps of ambling rhythms. On the opener ‘Lay In A Shimmer’ tightened delayed drums and low brooding basslines compete with the odd pleasant sparkly percussion, as winding ambient soundscapes float overhead. This direction continues on ‘Abglanz’, which by the way is a famous breed of Hanoverian stallion, but transforms the location to Nepal as Tibetan bells and gongs add some colour to the mostly grey composition. Moving onto ‘The Splendour’, which features the bouncing basslines of Taylor Pope, we get a shallow sounding melody accompanied by some much-needed light touch xylophones and vibraphones. Pope delicately treads around the track, being careful not to overplay his role, which to be truthful doesn’t really add much to the overall sound. Another guest, Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox, lends his vocals to ‘Stick To My Side’, which evidently he also co-wrote with Weber. Minimal house like grooves and wistful trance washes wrap themselves around Lennox’s vocals all to the accompaniment of what sounds like a cart that’s being dragged across a pebbly mountain road. Swathes of distant church bells and genial breezy melodies criss-cross the sonic landscape as though its all a dream, making this an early hours come down record. Two stand out tracks include the German titled ‘Im Bann’ and ‘Es Schneit’, both evoke the most emotions from your humble reviewer. ‘Im Bann’ translates as In The Spell, which is sort of how this gliding tune of refined beauty feels, as majestic sweeps of voices brought in on the wind sound like a hymn to the ravine that is testament to the village that once stood. Concise prolonged beats perfectly underpin the choral waves of ethnography that this song evokes, settling into a general breadth of warmth. The second of these is ‘Es Schneit’, which translates as Of The Snow and is based around the 1985 song ‘Hilary’ by one of Manchester’s finest bands the Durutti Column, formally on the infamous Factory records. It features more of those sacred otherworldly vowels whispered amongst the cracks and crevices. Sound collages are let loose on this journey through the rocky terrain, boulders shift and slowly roll as we peer over the frightening peak face. Soft melodic symphonic’s act as a comfort, sounding like the Spaceman 3 and My Bloody Valentine in a sedated sleep, plucking lushly at the heart strings until reaching an ethereal finale of rapture. Hendrik creates an underplayed emotional expanse of moods with a stern scientific approach, controlled and with-strained at every turn. This album manages to sound more human then cold electronic fact, even though the title itself sounds like another of those science-based terms. Black Noise is listed on the record with all its many meanings and connotations, my favourite being – ‘Used in modelling various environmental processes. Is said to be a characteristic of natural and un-natural catastrophes like floods, draught, bear-markets, and various outrageous outrages, such as those of electrical power’. Or as Weber himself puts it – ‘The eerie silence before an avalanche’ It certainly never falls short in the evocative stakes, unfortunately most of the music never quite manages to remain memorable enough. Existing only for that brief moment, failing to etch itself upon your memory or loom around long enough to make a real impact. Otherwise ‘Black Noise’ is a subtle ambient soundtrack experience, which in the right environment manages to stir the soul. Dominic Valvona

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