Panthu du Prince & The Bell Laboratory – Elements of Light (2013)


The well known Minimal Techno/Microhouse musician Pantha Du Prince meets a few new band members in this debut album Elements of Light.

I wont lie, I’ve never listened to his work before this release. I’ve had it suggested to me on a number of occasions and it does seem to be in a musical niche that I enjoy and frequent myself, but you know how it is; so many artists so little time, and I’ve just never worked my way to him. Maybe after I’ve finished digesting this album I’ll look into perhaps his more purebred work because this has certainly piqued my interest, despite probably being somewhat removed from this normal style.

The stunning “Wave” tinkles into view as we open the album, a surprising opener considering the music that is to follow, but a wonderful tangent nonetheless. No electronic is to be found here as magical xylophones and glockenspiels shimmer and glisten with perfect craft and precision, their shy tones reverberating in the air before being accompanied by darkening pulses of drone, like clouds on the horizon of a pristine sky. Absolutely love this track, and its time is soon up as it slips quickly into the next track.

“Particle” is where the album truly begins, kicking a deep sub-bass beat and getting that Microhouse vibe going while the Bell Laboratory side of this collaboration begin to work their magic, weaving bell tolls through the electronica. It’s an interesting relationship, one that ebbs and flows, waxes and wanes as the bells come to the fore and relegate the electronic to all but the deepest bass pulses, while at other times they retreat back and allow the repetitive beats take their share in the limelight. But there’s variety as the bells fade out around the 7 minute mark for a brief experimental excursion into minimalism before that bassline steps into overdrive and really gets the feet tapping and head nodding.

We move into the 2nd of the three 4 minute tracks with “Photon”. “Particle” segues seamlessly into the rather disharmonious instrumentation here; the mix is much less palatable as the bells dominate the fore with unusual keys that are not complimentary to the admittedly rather good House beats pounding below. It picks up towards the latter half though as the two begin to come together better as a unit, even if I dont quite imagine photons while listening to this. We are subsequently greeted by the longest track of the album, the 17 minute “Spectral Split”. It’s starts with the same delicacy as the opener, with beautiful drones and panoramic stretches of quiet contemplation, but this does not last long. Deep bass throbs begin to pulse, the bells begin to toll and slowly the music is introduced to the track, layer by layer. Glockenspiel tinklings balance the mid-field between the two overarching textural elements before becoming sucked into a mass of processing around the 6 minute mark when things finally begin to emerge.

The House influences are undeniable as for the first time on the album we have notable 303s in the foreground and they really give the music some cohesion as all the textural elements begin to fall in line to produce a really groovy beat with an oddly medieval vibe. It’s just a fantastically jovial and fun track throughout that, once it’s established a presence, never lets up and continues to surprise with new beat structures after little breathers. I admit that I was sceptical a track of this length could be made so compelling in this fusion but it is really good (I think the more electronic presence on this one in particular helps it somewhat).

And so our journey comes to an end with the brief finalé in “Quantum”, a closer that mirrors closely the opener and despite feeling somewhat out of place by and large is a nicely calming respite from the hectic and beat heavy album interior, riding on waves of curiously sparkly, manipulated tones and shining drone pulses, as small and delicate as the subatomic world of its namesake. It pulls the curtains on what is a rather curious album, one that does something I really enjoy in that it closes the gap between electronic genres with deep foundations like House and rather more classical instrumentation. Being an ambient man I would have loved to hear more of “Wave” and “Quantum”, but I would have been more than happy to listen to more of “Spectral Split”-esque tracks as well. As a result I just cant love it, it covers slightly too much ground being a tad indecisive along the way, but it is certainly not bad by any means. A fine start to 2013.