Friday, February 12, 2010
Black Noise - Pantha du Prince (Winter 2010)
Pantha du Prince
Rough Trade Records.
SCQ Rating: 78%
The first few tracks of This Bliss, Hendrick Weber’s sophomore full-length under the Pantha du Prince moniker, will always remind me of Christmas afternoon, 2007, when I zoned out in my parents’ basement; at first, noting how graceful and unfurling compositions like ‘Saturn Strobe’ and ‘Asha’ pumped from my Dad’s speakers, and later, acknowledging how a festive overdose of everything sweet and salty had pushed my sleepless mind to a point of uncomfortable excess. The basement’s lack of illumination lended well to my woozy state, blurring furniture edges and the measurement of time into a shadowed indifference that, by record’s end, had succeeded in harbouring a fever. Yet my impassiveness to This Bliss, which grew with each successive track, proved unrelated to my illness and instead linked to said album’s seventy-four minute run-time. As sensuously propulsive as its highlights were, This Bliss – like me, on that particular Christmas afternoon - couldn’t shed its needless excesses; a sequencing ball-drop that ended up diluting the record’s promise.
Weber’s potential and long-winded nerve again collide on Black Noise, a follow-up that retains its predecessor’s penchant for cavernous drips and chimes while finding new ways of keeping its listeners invested. ‘Lay In a Shimmer’, while intoxicating in its funnel of flirtatious toybox melodies, is overly familiar to This Bliss’ top-heavy tease and as the acid bassline of ‘Abglanz’ begins to meander, one can’t help but protect him or herself with the foresight of knowing that, with Black Noise, Weber has again breached the seventy-minute mark. Yet for every half-hearted venture into ho-hum minimal techno, Weber doubles forward with two imaginative, breathtaking compositions that live up to his 2007 promise. Decent lead single ‘The Splendour’ ends up looking like a Hollywood stunt-double when followed by main-event track ‘Stick To My Side’ (made great with – not because of – vocals by Panda Bear) while the out-of-place aesthetic of ‘Behind the Stars’ and aimless ‘Satellite Sniper’ are surrounded by Weber’s deepest, meatiest cuts (the buried dance-grooves of ‘A Nomad’s Retreat’ and the dew-soaked, xylophone-webs of ‘Bohemian Forest’). Because the average track here lasts a minimum of six-minutes, Weber’s permitting of these few weak-ends, like This Bliss, reduce the album’s overall potency – and still, Black Noise is a notable upgrade on the Pantha du Prince canon. Vast improvements in the sequencing department help to defray some loose ends, from including the occasional haze of vocals (‘Stick To My Side’, ‘Im Bann’) to ensuring us patient listeners are rewarded for our dedication (the emotional triple-decker which concludes on the shape-shifting ‘Es Schneit’).
If cover-art can be of guidance, Black Noise brings us out of Pantha du Prince’s predisposed darkness and offers its songs a setting. For this album, the heavenly cascades, like raindrops off wine-glasses, are bellowing out of that shot’s reclusive castle and climbing the backyard’s towering vista. And for me, these songs have been trickling and pulsating against my eardrums throughout this first winter in a new city, where the sunset unveils a sky truly black and a windchill so fierce I race to get indoors. Earlier Pantha du Prince albums couldn’t have survived this long with me, here in Ottawa. By fueling Black Noise with capricious momentum-swings and wise sequencing, Weber has finally taken his noir electronica out of the basement and into the tundra.