A lot of techno searches for the hedonist in its fans. You know, the one who at six in the morning is still sweating it out on the dancefloor of a Berlin basement club and not bothered by the fact that they have work in three hours. But despite the heavy influence of techno on Hedrik Weber, a.k.a. Pantha Du Prince, Black Noise shows a different character. For starters, according to Wikipedia, black noise is “noise with a 1/fβ spectrum, where β > 2” — or, noise that is inaudible to humans. Why name a dance album after what amounts to silence? Many of the sounds on the album come from improvised field recordings created when Weber spent time in a remote area of the Swiss Alps. What need do techno fans have for the mystical sounds of snowy isolation? His latest photo shoot even had him knee-deep in snow. Where were the strobe lights? And do you even want to start on the track names? How about “A Nomad’s Retreat” and “Bohemian Forest”? Do they sound like they’ll get you in the dancing mood?
Unless you like your dancing to mimic Tai Chi, this latest release from Pantha Du Prince is actually impossible to move to. Instead, Pantha wants you to sit down and gaze at a starry sky. It’s minimal techno made by someone in love with nature; dance music that should be narrated by David Attenborough — it’s also what gives the album its beautiful spark of originality.
Weber is a firm believer in rewarding patience, purveying ambling atmospheric intros where he can both display his dark, dusky soundscapes and build up layers of minimal clicks and clipped snares. Opener “Lay In a Shimmer” is one such track, filled with a mellowing bassline, softly struck violins, and hints of “Eastern” instruments glistening in the background. For a peek at Pantha’s darker side, there’s “Behind The Stars,” with its pulsating cheese grater of a bassline and the amorphous grumble of a sinister-sounding man. The album highlight arrives with “Stick To My Side,” where wafting sub-bass and rolling noises of train tracks part ways for Noah Lennox (Panda Bear, Animal Collective) to provide vocals. In typical fashion, he sings meandering, harmony-drenched lines that are as unbearably catchy as ever. Combining this with Weber’s dark tones provides a curiously upbeat and innovative piece of work.
Pantha’s minimal shape-shifting sound also draws unique comparisons to British artist Burial. Just as Burial sets the soundtrack to a cold, early-morning walk home through the shadowy avenues of London, Pantha provides a more continental sonic representation of your post-clubbing amble. The mangled, reverberated guitars of “The Splendour” (featuring Tyler Pope of LCD Soundsystem and !!!, no less), or the hollowed-out steel drums of “Abglanz” add an eerie disquiet to that time of day when the world is silent, full of black noise. Skip the dancefloor, gather around the fire, and listen to some of the most forward-thinking minimal techno happening right now.