A composer and producer as well DJ and visual artist, German multi-hyphenate Hendrik Weber has released three albums as Pantha Du Prince, with three years separating each.. Following Diamond Daze and This Bliss, this year’s Black Noise marks Pantha’ debut on the cherished UK label Rough Trade. Weber has also made a name for himself remixing everyone from Depeche Mode to Bloc Party, but Black Noise stands as a singular achievement. Harnessing found sounds and analog synths for a chill hybrid of musique concrete and minimal techno, it’s a delicate masterwork of texture, atmosphere, and especially detail.
Talking from his current base of Berlin, where he has just enjoyed breakfast, Werner describes his process of shaping tracks. “It’s basically listening,” he stresses. “Listening, listening, and listening. And then changing little things, like frequencies. I always try to layer the sounds as much as possible [but]listening is my main principle, not making.”
Before he commences listening, however, Werner must first collect. Many of the sounds heard on Black Noise came from an expedition to the Swiss Alps, where Werner captured outdoor field recordings and improvisations on prepared instruments with collaborators Joachim SchÃ¼tz (Arnold Dreyblatt Trio) and Stephan Abry (Workshop). From there Werner retreated to the studio and set to work creating a seamless blend of the natural and electronic worlds.
“I wanted to have a pool of sounds,” he explains, “like a cave of little gems I can open up when I’m in the studio. We worked with the whole area around the house where we stayed, so it’s found sounds. But also, you put the microphone in a certain position and try to improvise with the rocks and where you have a certain reverberation.” Of the studio portion of the album’s genesis, he recalls, “I just let the tracks grow out of this basic material, like compressed versions you have to unfold somehow.”
Calming yet at times sinister, Black Noise pulses with phantom chimes and morphing beats. While it’s largely instrumental, we do hear Werner’s spoken voice briefly on ‘Behind The Stars’, and other songs hold sway on one’s emotions without resorting to words. That said, ‘Stick To My Side’ features mirage-like singing from Noah Lennox, a.k.a. Panda Bear of Animal Collective. The collaboration materialised after Werner remixed Animal Collective’s ‘Peacebone’ and supported the band on a two-week European tour. On tour Lennox confessed that he found himself singing to Pantha Du Prince compositions, so Werner asked him to record vocals for a track.
Still, it wasn’t immediately a perfect fit. “He chose one but I decided the track and the voice was not really right,” Werner explains. “So I made a new track under his melody. We went back and forth and made the arrangement together. It’s a collaboration in the best sense.”
‘The Splendour’ has another prominent guest in bassist Tyler Pope of !!! and LCD Soundsystem, who was staying in Berlin when he visited Werner one day with bass in tow. But in the end, Black Noise is the work of Werner, whose influences are vast and tasteful. He says the early days of Detroit techno was the core inspiration for Pantha Du Prince in the beginning, but there’s also an element of shoegaze to his creations. Werner once played in his share of new wave and Krautrock bands, which might further inform Pantha. He also connects his music to so-called concept photography, examples of which line the CD booklet for Black Noise alongside an explanation of the album’ title.
Werner had the phrase in his head for a long time before he realised it’s a versatile term used to describe silence, the cancellation of sound, as well as the inaudible sound thought to accompany natural disasters. “It just matched up with everything we did,” he enthuses. “It was the missing link.” Citing the crisp yet surreal outdoor images he has captured, not to mention the album itself, he adds, “I’m really into the force of nature.”
Pantha Du Prince’s Black Noise is available now on Rough Trade/Remote Control.