Pantha du Prince
This Bliss
2007
A-



black ice is deadly. You don’t even see it across your path, and suddenly you’re sideways. This Bliss is similarly slippery, so tread carefully. While you’re still wondering how a tundra heart can conjure such warm emotions, you may have already gone head over heels.

Tracks like “Saturn Strobe” are a case in point. The rhythmic use of delay, a hallmark of the album’s sound design, creates a blizzard of tapping hats which swarm over an elegiac string melody borrowed from composer Robert Skempton. Between ping-ponging chimes and a warm grooving bassline, Pantha weaves the slow, heavy strings together with squalls of bells and taps. It’s a troubling synthesis, one which causes dissonance between its influences just as it creates dissociation between its elements, which, ironically enough, becomes the problem and the pleasure of the work.

The album flows along beautifully, maintaining its mood throughout, with the tracks first ascending, then intensifying, then dissipating, with the clatter and swarm of delayed percussions hitting in a barrage of sixteenths followed by crystal stillness, then long cascades back into basking loopscapes, like “Asha,” where glassy bells sing and metallic dulcimers bang like stays on masts. Both “Moonstruck” and “White Out” move this bouquet of icicles firmly onto the dancefloor, but while both work, the track’s “anger” remains in inverted commas and is never so convincing or immediately moving as the melancholy that Pantha manages to conjure effortlessly.

The two epics “Urlichten” and “Walden 2” re-appear here after their initial appearance on last year’s majestic Lichten/Walden EP, and although on first listen sound “pasted in,” repeat plays reveal them to be simply two longer parts of a larger whole. Fundamentally, This Bliss’ success as an album rests in its conceptual integrity, the way it moves through ten parts of an arctic season with cool intensity, crafted by an artist successfully extending an idea into an ambitious, ambiguous album as dangerously slippery as it is seductive.



Reviewed by: Peter Chambers
Reviewed on: 2007-02-14
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