Review Summary: Less "In McDonalds" than in "The Splendour," Black Noise sounds distinctly of the earth, an organic piece that wavers between warmth and menace without declaring either one the victor.
Last month, when Four Tet’s brilliant There Is Love In You
dropped, the term “folk-hop,” a buzzword of ambiguous meaning, began to circulate as if this were the future
, man. I mean, how cool
does that sound? Techno music removed from the colder, more industrial aesthetic the genre tends to imply by placing it in an earthier context? An interesting idea to say the least, one that’s been applied before, but rarely as seamlessly as on Black Noise
, the latest album from German producer Pantha du Prince, is a record that sits in constant dialogue with the scene that produced Burial’s Untrue
and Four Tet’s latest, but instead of being defined in concrete and metal, Black Noise
sounds distinctly of the earth, clacking away at an unhurried pace, songs slowly blossoming as opposed to claustrophobically twitching. With song titles like “Lay in a Shimmer,” “Behind the Stars,” and “Bohemian Forest,” it’s clear that Black Noise
is an album meant to sit as far away as possible from city life, less “In McDonalds” and more in “The Splendour,” one might say. It’s no coincidence that Pantha du Prince (aka Hendrik Weber) recruits Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) of Animal Collective to guest spot on a track. In an obvious representation of the album’s environment, the collaboration between the two artists (the startlingly immediate “Stick to My Side”) uses Noah Lennox’s familial tone to conjure the forest he’s been playing in throughout both his solo career and his tenure with Animal Collective. Black Noise
creates its own fantastic forest, one specifically cast under a clear starry night where the false light allows the journey through it to hazily waver between light and dark.
Weber constructs this organic feel with hollow-log percussion and gently raining, reverb soaked lead lines, but the means are far less important than the end they achieve. Black Noise
is a fairly homogeneous record, but differentiation is not at all what the album requires. In fact, the aforementioned Panda Bear collaboration is the only odd duck on the record, for unlike, say, “Walkabout” on Atlas Sound’s Logos
, “Stick to My Side” interrupts a truly personal statement from a faceless individual by giving a clear voice to someone else. Black Noise
works much better when Weber allows the soul of his works to remain ambiguous, making them charmingly distant without giving a definite answer as to the true emotion behind Black Noise
. The wash of playfully percussive melodies and droning undercurrent characterize Black Noise
as hypnotic, and the record’s surreal atmosphere constantly wavers between blissful and ominous, playing up elements of warmth and fear, sometimes at the same time. There are times tracks start blending together in a soft, contented smile, others when ticking blips and gunshot synths start contorting the smile into something slightly more sinister. It’s an indefinite personality, and one that allows Black Noise
to open in new ways each time it’s revisited.
It’s on these subsequent listens where the benefits of such attention are reaped. Black Noise
has a knack for rewarding both active or passive listening, whether you wish to scrutinize just how intricate these arrangements are or let them drift over you and go along for the ride. The latter approach will render Black Noise
entirely mesmerizing, and the former approach will show just exactly how
it's that mesmerizing. Either way, Black Noise
is something worth delving into. It is something intensely personal and emotionally gray, but it’s also grounded, accessible enough to welcome you inside. What you get from that point on, however, is entirely up to you.