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Pantha du Prince - A cold beauty full of shimmering minimalism and glacial beats
on 9 February 2010
Pantha du Prince aka Hendrik Weber is a red hot German producer who has specialized in ambient house music over a number of albums including his previous work 2007s "This Bliss" which accurately described itself. His moniker is drawn from a mix of Detroit techno and the black panthers and the music is crystalline electronic music for the new century full of shimmering, bell-like tones strung out and stretched against a backdrop of gentle micro-beats.
This is Weber's first release on Rough Trade and I first heard him on the extraordinary 12 inch single "Splendour". Think David Bowie's stunningly fragile "Moss Garden" off "Heroes" and set it in the Swiss Alps in Winter and that is the effect. It bubbles with chimes and beats and reminds you of falling snow. This album has you grasping for superlatives. The nearly seven minute long "Es schneit" is a particular highlight building on a slow wall of synths and a spare drum like motif it is an intensely powerful track and strangely beautiful. "Turn off you mind relax and float down stream" as someone once advised.
And yes of course you knew somewhere in this mix you would find the Animal Collective. "Stick by my Side" features a guest spot from Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) whose vocal accompanies a stunning song set to beats that have a Fever Ray style pulsing crispness in the instrumentation and clearly it is the most commercial song on the album. If this is the new direction for Animal Collective then its intriguing.
This is a very long album but all it requires is your rapt attention. The slow drift of those beautiful chimes in the opener "Lay in a shimmer" make you understand the powerful effect that Weber's relocation to the Swiss Alps to record this ambient monster must have had (he was taking "field recordings" - as you do!). It becomes such a dizzying but controlled noise (in the best sense) that at one point it is almost overwhelming. Alternatively in the "Nomads Retreat" we have a hard house number which will be mixed into oblivion on the web, it will soundtrack the sun going down in Ibiza this year and is another massive highlight. "Beneath the stars" with its dark vocal is even more trippy and at times sounds like Massive Attack. Finally "Satellite Snyper" is as funky and club bound as ambient music can get and is fully danceable.
Like Four Tet's excellent recent album "There is love in you" this album by Pantha du Prince proves that the simple power of sound is truly a force of nature. Black Noise could suggest something ugly and hard. In fact it is a recording of clarity and brightness. It is as beautiful and glacial as the lake on the album cover.