Pantha Du Prince’s third album, Black Noise, is best listened to and appreciated via headphones. This is definitely meant as a compliment: in order to fully hear every little thing going on, unless you have a recording studio caliber stereo system, headphones are your best bet. Sitting still just doesn’t cut it. You’re going to want to feel involved with the music, somehow, even if it’s just tapping your feet.
While Pantha Du Prince draw comparisons from across the electronic music heavy weight circuit, from Fourtet to Caribou, and at points even Autechre or Aphex Twin, this is in a league of its own. The brainchild of well-known and well-traveled German techno producer Henrik Weber, Pantha Du Prince manages to achieve a sound that, in an overcrowded genre, still sounds fresh. The layering and texture on the songs is rich; it is an intersection between the organic and the inorganic. Mixing traditional music samples with nature sounds is nothing new, but Weber just makes it seem so effortless that you can’t help but sit back in awe. The vocals kick in after a long build up on the fourth track, “Stick to my Side,” done by Panda Bear, who adds a very signature flair to the song, and they are a welcome but not vital addition.
It was a brave move to start the album off with a more complex electronic sound and trust that your (more casual) listeners will continue, but Weber is clearly (and wisely) not one to go with convention. Both “Lay in a Shimmer” and “Abglanz” are a bit colder to the ears. This is not a pop record, but it is so happy at points that you might believe otherwise. The fifth track, “A Nomad’s Retreat,” is exuberant, and it is easy to see Weber’s techno-dance roots at work here. Though hard to believe, the album gets bouncier towards the end, with the beautiful, vibraphone-filled “Bohemian Forest” and the graceful, majestic “Im Bahn.”
Overall, Black Noise feels very full. It might be hard to approach as a new listener to the genre, but as a friend (and skeptical electronic music listener) who recently purchased the album said, “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to wrap my head around it all, but I can’t stop listening to it.”