Pantha du Prince’s catalog performs like a time-lapse of techno being reclaimed by nature. The German producer born Hendrik Weber had a Neuschwanstein-sized Romantic streak from the start, and his manufacturing type was all the time detached to the associations conjured by techno’s identify. He prefers devices to artificial sounds when attainable, collaborating on his 2010s albums Black Noise and The Triad with musicians like bassist Tyler Pope and drummer Bendik HK. His work this decade has skewed more and more new age, with 2020’s Convention of Bushes leaning so uncompromisingly into its wild talking-trees idea as to midway persuade the listener that vegetation would possibly really sound like this once they talk. Surrounding practically the whole lot he makes is a thick cloud of bells and percussion that appears to have a thoughts of its personal, inescapably following his music round like a tenacious swarm of bees.
On Backyard Gaia, Weber’s sixth album as Pantha du Prince, the natural tumult is so thick that the whole lot else appears to bend and buckle round it. The sound design is acquainted from the primary ding-a-ling on “Open Day,” however the generosity with which it’s utilized is just not. Each empty area within the combine is crammed not simply with bells but additionally recordings of birds and dashing water that kind a part of the music’s cloth, moderately than merely lapping at its margins. It takes greater than a minute for the beat to assemble itself on “Open Day,” and it’s not a four-on-the-floor rhythm however a burdened half-time lope. Pantha’s drums have all the time been a bit flimsy, performing the naked minimal responsibility of driving the music ahead moderately than focusing on the listener’s head with sonic or rhythmic trickery. Right here they resemble snapping twigs, usually paired with woody creaks and rustles that sound as if Weber is clearing the overgrowth from his music in actual time.
The sense of momentum that thrives in Pantha’s music is de-emphasized right here, and whereas Black Noise and Convention of Bushes felt like journeys alongside a linear path, Backyard Gaia is extra like staring into 9 particular person thickets of climbing vines, hoping to make sense of the overwhelming development. The tracks are shorter than typical, all hovering round 4 to 5 minutes, and the division between rhythmic tracks and extra ambient ones retains the album from producing any sense of ahead movement. A number of the techno tracks appear to hurtle towards lifeless ends; “Crystal Volcano” and “Blume” take their time to emerge from the ether however waste none retreating again into it. Gaia sounds greatest when it commits totally to atmospheric sound design, as in the course of the eerie bass-and-hand-drums invocation “Mom” and the luxurious, string-drenched nearer “Golden Galactic.”
Pantha’s 2020s are shaping as much as be his most eclectic and experimental decade but, and the ecologically acutely aware ideas and hand-crafted sound of his current music serve him properly. But he appears reluctant to stray too removed from the bread and butter of his sound. “Liquid Lights” devotes essential climactic working time to a easy chord development and a rudimentary beat underlined by the standard bells, and it sounds a lot like Pantha-by-numbers that we’d discover ourselves scanning outdated tracklists to see if it isn’t an edit of one thing from Black Noise or The Triad. The music on Backyard Gaia is impressed by the concept of Earth as a self-regulating system, and it’s heartening in that context to listen to Weber let his machines fall into disrepair. However Backyard Gaia sounds greatest once they’re swallowed up totally.
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