Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory – Elements of Light
Accustomed as you may be to Hendrick Weber’s (aka Pantha Du Prince) haunting melodies and minimal beats, nothing quite prepares you for the journey you embark on upon your first listen of Elements of Light. A collaboration with little-known Norwegian musicians The Bell Laboratory, Weber takes his exploration of classical music-cum-techno one step further into the realms of the unknown.
Du Prince is well known for his progression from the murky depths of heavy minimal techno to his self-titled genre of ‘sonic house’. As a producer, Weber has spanned the genres far and wide, from microhouse to dark ambient. Elements of Light, however, brings something completely new to the table.
Despite being made up of only 5 tracks, nothing is lost in the near forty five minute long release, as it behaves more like a single composition than separate entities. Created with a thirty tonne, fifty-bell carillon (an assortment of heavy duty bells attached to a keyboard, more likely to be found in your local vestry than recording studio) no expense has been spared to construct this gem of an album. Each track building upon the last, the music takes you on a journey across strange astral planes and snowy mountains.
The album starts with ‘Wave’, a soft and subtle awakening that doesn’t quite seem to fit with Weber’s back catalogue or even in the genre of techno at all. But as ‘Wave’ echoes into ‘Photon’, and Du Prince’s signature style starts to creep through, you start to grasp what this record is really about. Within the eerie chimes of the bells and steady beat, there’s something quite reminiscent of Bonobo’s untitled opening track of his Boiler Room set (tipped for release this year). Though lacking in the heavy basslines of Bonobo, the steady rhythm and repeated high pitch refrains marks a movement in electronic music.
The pièce de résistance however comes in the triumphant ‘Spectral Split’. There’s something very visual about the melody; each note and chime repeating themselves in a way that creates patterns in your head. A subtle drum beat, soft and repetitive, ties what previously sounded like random notes into a simple melody that grows as the track unravels. Then, suddenly, the sound explodes. Steel pan drums underlining the chiming bells, creating a masterpiece in ambient techno music. It’s like four tracks in one: the bells being the constant that remains strong throughout, and Weber’s other styles weaving themselves in and out in waves.
Exhausted after ‘Spectral Split’, ‘Quantum’ brings the release full circle, finishing where it began, with the visceral echoes of the bells fading into nothingness. As a record, it’s a work of art, and although it won’t be to everyone’s tastes, it’s undeniable that Weber is one very, very clever man.