No surprise, then, that for his latest album, Thomas Moen Hermansen set out to create something mostly ambient. Released on Smalltown Supersound instead of his own Full Pupp label (a first for Hermansen), Principe Del Norte is said to be indebted to '90s-era IDM and ambient-house, acts like The Orb, Black Dog and The KLF. But the music sounds more aligned with the likes of Manuel Göttsching, Michael Rother and Klaus Schulze—kosmische and krautrock artists who have long been reference points for Hermansen.
With nine tracks clocking in at nearly 100 minutes, Principe Del Norte reveals its best qualities in the focus of solitude. Instruments drift in and out of each low-lit creation, like the guitar in "B" that emerges from the soft-droning synths into a crescendo of quiet cacophony. "A2" begins sleepily, with tumbling bass and mumbling electronics, before a funky organ stirs it to life. "A1"'s opening arpeggiations are almost as sky-bent as Jean Michel-Jarre's, but they're soon overwhelmed by line after line of synth melody. "D" sounds like a lightning storm heard from a cozy place, before the distant thumps give way to another of Hermansen's graceful guitar flourishes.
The album's latter section indulges in the beat-oriented side of Prins Thomas. "E" is the first track you might describe as body-moving, underpinned by a patient drum roll, strutting bass and increasingly frenetic synth patterns. It's not quite exhilarating, but it could easily get feet moving. Likewise, "F" sets its sights on the dance floor, with a murky bassline working out for two minutes before it's joined by feathery guitars and fuzzed-out electronics. There's even a techno thump beneath the glorious atmospherics of "G."
Despite all that engaging slow-motion, Principe Del Norte is at its best when the mood is more pensive and restrained. Sometimes, even a simple rhythm distracts the ear from Hermansen's layered instrumentation. The clarity he finds in beatless music—from the inherent spaciousness and the heady combinations of synth, guitar and effects—makes the album feel more engrossing and mature. You can spot similarities and name-check influences throughout, but Principe Del Norte still stands as Hermansen's most distinctive and satisfying record to date.