Monday, January 07, 2008

Pantha Du Prince

Review by Jason Birchmeier
This Bliss, the second full-length album on Dial Records by Pantha du Prince, is stylistically typical of the Hamburg-based label's brand of dark, icy electronic music, variously described as ambient techno, microhouse, or even post-minimal (none of these tags incorrect). Like its predecessor, the wondrous Diamond Daze (2004), This Bliss is highly evocative. Each track is distinct, often in terms of rhythm if not the actual sounds comprising the productions (e.g., the signature chimes), yet the overall mood of the album is subdued and indeed blissful. The effect is hypnotic, like driving on the expressway into a snowstorm at night, how you can feel the underlying propulsion of the car and hear its constant rumble, yet at the same time, a fuzzy sense of comfort can easily overtake you as the snowflakes dance betwitchingly in your headlights. This Bliss invites a cascade of such analogies, its enigmatic cover art well-fitting. Having cited late-'80s British shoegaze as a key influence, along with Detroit and Berlin techno, Pantha du Prince, otherwise known as German producer Hendrik Weber, is clearly aiming to mesmerize. This is perhaps most evident on "Saturn Strobe" and "Steiner im Flug," two of the album's most cinematic tracks, as well as on "Walden 2" and "Urlichten," both of which carry on for over ten minutes (and both of which were previously released, in different versions, on the 2006 Lichten/Walden EP). The album-opener, "Asha," is notable for how quickly it shifts into high gear, showcasing how Pantha du Prince is not only a hypnotist but is occasionally dancefloor-minded. Other high-gear inclusions are "Moonstruck" and "Florac," both ideal for DJing and dancing. One of the year's most accomplished techno releases, This Bliss covers the spectrum — from bed-sit ambience to hard-driving dance, generally in the course of a single track — and is most evocative when listened to from beginning to end, for the bewitchery compounds as the time passes.

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