In 2010, Black Noise made good on the potential of its predecessor, standing as one of the year's best albums. Released by indie giant Rough Trade and featuring a vocal turn from Animal Collective's Panda Bear, it crystalised Pantha Du Prince as one of electronic music's premier crossover artists. His music had hardly changed, described by Derek Miller as "yet another gorgeous entry in Weber's catalogue of pointillist, microscopic house music." Yes, the style was the same, but its execution and range had broadened. Fans still high on the pitch-black groove of "Behind The Stars" and "Lay In A Shimmer"'s crisp brilliance couldn't wait to see how Weber's project would evolve after its wide success.
They'd have to wait a while. Six years after his third solo album and three after his collaboration with The Bell Laboratory, Weber returns with The Triad. As he puts it, "Black Noise was very much about me being alone in a small room in Berlin and composing. The Triad opens the structure to more human ways of interacting." Those interactions revolve around Queens (New York-based singer and producer Scott Mou) and Bendik Kjeldsberg of The Bell Laboratory, with appearances from Joachim Schultz and Kassian Von Troyer. Despite the number of outsiders involved, Weber's lively dance music sounds most different when accommodating his or Mou's vocals. As heard on lead single "Winter Hymn," however, those changes are often surface level.
The Triad is subject to diminishing returns: there's only so much excitement to be found in "Bohemian Forest" clones and watered-down versions of "The Splendour." But Weber sticking to a sound that has served him well for over a decade isn't the album's main problem—that's reserved for its shallow emotional range and awkward, abrupt tonal shifts. For most of the hour, the music clings to a dim brightness, like a forced grin from a tired friend. Even the shortest track here, "Lichterschmaus," overcompensates with busy bell patterns to keep the passive excitement interesting. That sound is explored from the beginning until track seven, "Dream Yourself Awake," when Weber takes a slight turn for the wonky world of his minimal background. Along with "Chasing Vapour Trails," it's the best The Triad has to offer, as it twists and recontextualizes the Pantha Du Prince formula to great effect. Even when the dopey vocals enter the mix—working far better on "Vapour" than "Dream"—their needless nonsense can't derail the heady, sprawling grooves.
Most of The Triad lacks darkness or tension, which results in a lack of depth and contrast. Near the end, "Lions Love" attempts to add grit with its resonant distortion, but the overall tone is still dully hopeful. "Islands In The Sky" tries harder, tapping into a mysterious haze of dancey vocal-pop, which the beatless "Wallflower For Pale Saints" further explores with its plumes of live guitar and distant falsettos. Needless to say, those two tracks come as a surprise, and sound out of place on an album of house and electronica. And yet their inclusion makes some sense: Weber might have grown weary of being the same old Pantha Du Prince.
Thu / 26 May 2016
01. The Winter Hymn feat. Queens
02. You What? Euphoria!
03. Frau im Mond, Sterne Laufen
04. In An Open Space feat. Queens
05. Chasing Vapour Trails feat. Joachim Schultz & Kassian Von Troyer
07. Dream Yourself Awake
08. Lions Love feat. Joachim
09. Islands In The Sky
10. Wallflower For Pale Saints