In an era where consistent sonic trademarking often gets confused for a creative stall—where the demand for "ingenuity" often outstrips that for sheer persistence and quality—few imprints have been as diligent and attentive in defining their crystalline brand of house music over the last decade as Hamburg's Dial Records. Among the most beloved of the label's artists, Hendrik Weber, AKA Pantha du Prince, has done much to help sketch out that sound. From the lead-bass shimmer of Diamond Daze to the snowed-in retreat of 2007's This Bliss, Weber was the most consistently breathtaking producer in a roster that long staked its reputation to its delicate, diaphanous beauty. Given the sense of fraternity that developed between Dial and PdP, it's perhaps unfortunate for the label then that Weber's third full-length—and most likely his crossover breakout thanks to one high-profile collab—is offered on UK stalwart Rough Trade.
Fortunately, label switch notwithstanding, fans of PdP's winter-sky cinematism need not fret. Black Noise is yet another gorgeous entry in Weber's catalogue of pointillist, microscopic house music, and perhaps the "prettiest" electronic album since Jesse Somfay's A Catch in the Voice last year. Returning to most of the aural trappings of This Bliss, Weber outlines his gauzy, bell-laced productions in amorphous, dubby basslines that often seem to lack definition, a vague blur more than a firm grounding. Playing beneath are faint beehive tones—snatches of fuzzy dissonance that almost resemble the dronescapes of Tim Hecker or Christian Fennesz muted to late-night volumes—and twinkling peals of bells and xylophone. These are spirit-in-the-night tracks, a quiet room given sudden life when all else has slipped into sleep.
Weber's always careful to leave plenty of gaps and transitional spaces in his tracks, small nooks for play and realignment; his are often a-linear compositions, full of sly retreats and advances, sudden breaks in the clouds that reveal new melodies or points of focus. They contain a narrative complexity unmatched in even the downiest, home-oriented dance realms. While Black Noise houses some of PdP's danciest fare to date, his use of rhythm is still quite subtle and organic, sometimes more a scatter than a real pulse, like a wooden table with glass objects dropped in clutter. The droney hum of opener and album standout "Lay in a Shimmer" gives way to Weber's empty-sky bell tones—like spoons tapping on glass—before a slow buzzing beat settles in around it. The muffled xylophone pattern and serene synth melodies of "The Splendour," which features !!! and LCD Soundsystem bassist Tyler Pope, picks up speed across the track's belly, and "Satellite Sniper" moves in stages, its Close Encounters tonal pattern melding into a warbling, almost eerie Kraut-indebted melody.
Elsewhere, Weber's contemplative side drowses without thought, a pleasant woozy calm as on the music-box musings and shoegazey guitars of "Welt Am Draht" or the soaring ambient wash and railroad-bells of closer "Es Schneit." Weber obviously has a deft hand with the "dance" full-length, and Black Noise shimmers with impressionistic visions and asides, moments open to interpretation and intrigue. Were it not for the break in pace offered by the collaboration to which I referred earlier—Panda Bear's vocals on "Stick to My Side," which dices up Black Noise's otherwise excellent sequencing—it'd be tempting to consider this his best work to date. That slight misstep aside, Black Noise is another evocative stunner from Pantha du Prince. And so perfectly timed: listen closely, and you can hear in its slow-thaw timbres melting snow and the drip of softening ice, crafted against a winter wearing out its welcome.
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Tracklist: Pantha du Prince - Black Noise 01. Lay In A Shimmer
03. The Splendour
04. Stick To My Side
05. A Nomad's Retreat
06. Satellite Snyper
07. Behind The Stars
08. Bohemian Forest
09. Welt Am Draht
10. Im Bann
11. Es Schneit
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