Pantha Du Prince
, February 11th, 2010 07:00
Disaster and noise. Hendrik Weber has them both on the brain. Black Noise, his third full length LP as Pantha Du Prince, takes its title from the concept of black noise, or silent noise as it's also known. Think of it as the antithesis of white noise. Instead of harsh, indecipherable screeching, you have silence, at least to human ears. It may read like the absence of sound but it's a (barely) detectable audio frequency, often appearing prior to catastrophic events. The sound of silence, yet one that impacts on our physical environment. It's a concept that J.G Ballard toyed with in his 1960 short story 'The Sound-Sweep'. But while the mighty futurologist depicted a world intent on hoovering up even the inaudible, Black Noise is, according to Weber, an attempt to unlock the unheard music that exists in all matter. It's a conceit wrapped around the German producer's belief that music is something which exists in a kind of perpetual a priori state; independent of us, always there, regardless of who is actually on hand to hear the proverbial tree falling in the woods. And for Weber, the untapped music that interests him most is located in what remains after the crash.
Heady stuff, even for an artist normally lumped in with the deeper end of the minimal techno and house set. Yet, it's a trajectory that Weber has long since been plotting. A self-professed indie kid as influenced by the likes of Slowdive as he is by Carl Craig, 2004's Diamond Daze sampled Kiwi-poppers The Chills phenomenal 'Pink Frost' while 2007's This Bliss veered further away from the dance-floor with a collection of tracks that incorporated haunting, swirling textures and ambient tones that wouldn't be out of place on an early Creation release. It's little surprise then to find that his latest, Black Noise, is being released on Rough Trade instead of his usual home, the Hamburg based Dial Records.
It's a smart fit. Weber's work has since the release of his debut evolved into something too insular and wandering for a club world whose diehards increasingly file Pantha Du Prince next to Gui Boratto and The Field in a folder marked token electronic music for the indie kids. Add in the fact that Animal Collective's Noah Lennox and !!!'s Tyler Pope guest on Black Noise, and you'll find many techno and micro-house heads turning up their noses at a record tainted by the stench of crossover. A smell that, like pigs to truffles, has inversely attracted a growing mass of cardigan clad indie bloggers. They're now awkwardly cramming the words 'minimal' and 'techno' into the hype machine as they attempt to digest their latest electronic morsel.
As taxonomy goes, though, minimal techno is the wrong term to use when attempting to describe Black Noise. Weber's bio offers the phrase, 'Sonic House.' The world may not need another sub-genre of electronic music, but in this instance, it works. Black Noise is, minus a few stumbles, a solid piece of sonic architecture. Collating sounds and textures, including field recordings taken from the debris of a Swiss Village that had been destroyed by a landslide, Weber marries acoustic tones with pulsing beats, throwing on splashes of static ambience and in the process creating a record that at its peak, produces the spectral, machine psychedelia of 'Welt Am Draft' and it's beat-free cousin, 'Im Bann.'
Black Noise's troughs are not, as the crossover weary may hope, the Lennox and Pope tracks. Weber doesn't allow himself to be drawn into the familiar routines of his guest's day jobs. Instead, he bends their skills to fit his template. Pope's bass playing slides seamlessly into the pastoral glitch of 'The Splendour.' Follower 'Stick to My Side' tempers Lennox's acid-wash choirboy tricks, warping and manipulating them into a melancholic shape that doesn't quite fit the electro-pop mould some expect. The real troughs on Black Noise appear when Weber slips into minimal by numbers mode on 'A Nomads Retreat' and 'Bohemian Forest.' Both lack the thudding drive that made Diamond Daze such a standout and both lack the undulating textures that defined This Bliss.
If electronic music's brief is to keep its eye firmly fixed on the future, then Weber has taken the idea to its logical conclusion in his attempt to interpret the sounds to come after even the gleaming man-machine comes crashing to a final halt. The concept alone makes Black Noise a record to admire, even if it doesn't always in practice give us something to love.