Release Date: Jan 15, 2013
Record label: Rough Trade
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
This major new work from German techno producer Hendrik Weber is a collaboration of sorts, albeit as much between man and instument as between a group of creative working musicians. The star of the show here is the carillon, a set of 50 bronze bells that staggeringly weighs in at three tonnes, performed by the Norwegian carillonist Vegar Sandholt. Weber has also opted to collaborate with The Bell Laboratory, a percussion group from Norway who bring a sense of urgency and a luminous glow to his precision moulded, glistening techno.
Nobody could accuse German producer Hendrik Weber (aka Pantha Du Prince) of lacking in vision or ambition. Drawn to the distinctive sound of the bells ringing from city hall while he was on a visit to Oslo, Weber discovered that it was produced by a three-tonne carillon consisting of 50 bronze bells invented 3,500 years ago in China. Promptly arranging to have one shipped back to Berlin, he began composing Elements Of Light, Weber enlisting Vegar Sandholt, the same carillonist whom he’d first heard in the Norwegian capital.
German electronic dude Hendrik Weber has been doing the minimalist techno thing for a decade, achieving international props with 2010’s softly pulsating ‘Black Noise’. On ‘Elements Of Light’ he’s honed those chiming shapes to create a gentle odyssey with the help of a bell carillon. A what? Well, it’s a three-ton instrument made up of 50 bronze bells that clangs away, melding with caressed synths to conjure subtle dancefloor bliss.
If asked what stylistic element Hendrik Weber - aka Pantha du Prince - should add to his music to take it to the next level, you would be forgiven for not suggesting 'more bells'. Indeed, collaborations or side projects from musicians who have already made their mark (see Four Tet and Steve Reid, Jamie xx and Gil-Scott Heron) lead to an expectation of a sea change of sorts, where prior success allows for a degree of artistic license. Elements of Light however is a steady continuation musically from Black Noise, Weber's critically acclaimed album of two years ago, except with more bells.
The idea of an electronic artist like Pantha du Prince (aka Hendrik Weber) collaborating with Norwegian percussion ensemble the Bell Laboratory to compose an album around a 3-ton carillon (aka church bells) isn't that odd when you consider how integral chiming metallic sounds have been to du Prince's previous work. Why not take them from the digital world to the physical? The sonic elements aren't so new for him, but the arrangements and composition style are, presumably born out of the bells themselves. There are still electronic components, but the focus is clearly on letting the acoustic instruments do the heavy lifting, so the work becomes less about the treatment of a sound and more about the notes themselves.
It could be said that there's always been something of the classical in the work of Pantha Du Prince's Hendrik Weber. Even looking past the Steve Reich and Philip Glass-leanings of his often tasteful minimalist techno, consider the pastoral tranquility of Black Noise's cover, or the pleasingly ordered nature of his career; an album at the start of the year, every three years since 2004. So, if there was anyone who'd go to the lengths of basing an entire album around the church-bell based sound of the carillon, it would be him.
Hendrik Weber's new symphonic work as Pantha Du Prince, in collaboration with the Bell Laboratory, Elements of Light, is one part classic Pantha techno and one part classical composition. Meant to be listened to as a single continuous work, the five-piece orchestration prominently features a carillon (an instrument heavier than any other in current existence, consisting of bronze bells of varying sizes), whose presence dominates the sonic palette of the album for its duration. The album opens with delicately placed melodies of high-end carillon ambience ("Wave"), which slowly build into Weber's mixture of organic bell sounds and synthetic electronics, constructing the pulsating rhythms of "Particle" and "Photon.
The lowly bell might not figure much in the history of minimal techno-- or, indeed, much contemporary music at all-- but it's a percussive instrument that holds much attraction for German producer Hendrik Weber, aka Pantha du Prince. Strip the bells out of "Lay in a Shimmer" from the high-benchmark Pantha release Black Noise and it simultaneously loses its twinkly elegance and errs a little too close to humdrum genre fare. Back in 2011 Weber appeared at the Øya Festival in Oslo where he took his obsession up a notch by collaborating with a collection of musicians on a series of bell-oriented tracks under the name Pantha du Prince and the Bell Laboratory.
Pantha Du Prince & The Bell LaboratoryElements of Light[Rough Trade; 2013]By Will Ryan; January 16, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGIt's not surprising Pantha Du Prince is the last man standing from Dial's seminal decade long run of downer house which gave us the likes of Lawrence's The Absence of Blight, Efdemin's 2007 self-titled, and, yep, Pantha Du Prince's This Bliss. But it wasn't until that latter record's follow up, Black Noise, released on Rough Trade in 2010, that the German producer truly had his cross over moment. The factors are numerous and debatable, but Hendrik Weber's glassy and intricate minimal techno sound sculptures were some of the most inviting and singular in all of dance music.
You'd be excused for thinking Hendrik Weber's attributing his fourth album to his work with "the Bell Laboratory" might be an act of self-parody. Since his 2004 debut through to 2010's Black Noise, Weber's sound has been all about warm, bell- and chime-laced nocturnes. In truth, of course, he's been playing live with the Bell Laboratory since last summer, and the group's name is grounded in their use of a three-ton, 50-bell carillon, which the artist first overheard echoing from a city hall in Oslo in 2010.
Elements of Light sounds less like the fourth proper Pantha du Prince album than it does a commissioned work. Depending on the vantage point, it's either a logical progression or a creative dead end. A collaboration between Hendrik Weber and a cheekily-named ensemble of bell-equipped percussionists from Norway, it's the producer's most ambient work, more suitable for background listening than anything from his past.
Hamburg's Hendrik Weber is one of the most imaginative techno producers currently working, but you wouldn't want to play one of his albums (2010's Black Noise is a standout) if you were trying to beat a nasty winter cold: his finely crafted electronics are as icy as a Baltic dip in January. The centrepiece of his latest record, a three-tonne carillon comprised of 50 bronze bells, does little to raise the temperature. The instrument affords Weber a chance to expand his hibernal sound in various interesting ways, but ultimately this feels more like a scholarly exercise than a fully realised album.
Nearly three years removed from Pantha du Prince’s Rough Trade debut LP, Black Noise, the German producer’s studio has grown to include a three-ton electronic carillon comprised of 50 bronze bells – a massive instrument that has also created an impedance for his sonic experimentation in fusing the tempos and textures of minimal techno with the beauty of organic soundscapes. Originally written as one movement by Pantha du Prince (né Hendrick Weber), the producer enlisted Norwegian composer Lars Petter Hagen to arrange Elements of Light for the many Oslo-based musicians who would eventually take the name “Bell Laboratory. ” Already demonstrating an affinity for bells, as evident in 2007’s “Stick To My Side”, Weber and the Laboratory earn praise for their complex layers of rarely heard carillon, percussive instruments like xylophones, tubular bells, and chimes, plus the shoegaze-inspired digital drone that stretches across the album’s five tracks.
Despite the heavy associations that bells can bring, Hamburg producer Hendrik Weber’s collaboration with the Norwegian percussion ensemble the Bell Laboratory lures an uncanny lightness from the three-ton carillon clanging at its core. Over 43 kaleidoscopic minutes, Weber (whose three albums as Pantha du Prince regularly mingle and mangle acoustics and electronics) expertly balances the natural burst and blur of the bells with the fine-tweaking of his trickery. “Wave” opens the suite in a flood of overlapping tones and resonances; it’s a shimmering primer of the album’s emotional vocabulary.
Although the electronic circumference covered on 2010’s Black Noise was an exceptional bridge of techno and to some degree, dance music, the symphonic harmony Pantha du Prince’s Hendrik Weber reached on 2007’s This Bliss still resonates strongly within the electronic producer’s catalog. Perhaps more all-encompassing, Black Noise showcased a vast array of sounds, while This Bliss envisioned a more layered approach. So it’s interesting to see Weber partner with the Norwegian group, The Bell Laboratory, for an album of very minimalistic techno-driven music.
An ambitious “symphony” with its roots in techno, recalling classical minimalists. Louis Pattison 2013 If you were feeling bold, you could probably boil the evolutionary progression of techno down to a single, simple phrase: innovation through percussion. Melody, of course, plays a part: but it is rhythm – the syncopation of beats, the complex interplay of bass and drums – that is the genre’s guiding principle.
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