Since 2007’s much-celebrated album This Bliss, German electronic producer Hendrik Weber, now recording under the name Pantha Du Prince, has been known for his melodic, emotive, and utterly distinct take on techno. For Black Noise, he left his home in Berlin and set up a recording studio in a secluded cabin in the Swiss Alps. After releasing his first two albums on Germany’s Dial imprint, the artist made the switch to Rough Trade Records, which put out Black Noise in February. Before a performance in New York — his first in the city in three years — we talked about creating sonic environments, the philosophy behind This Bliss and Black Noise and his recording process.
Much of your music contains these organic, natural-sounding textures, as if you’re trying to reproduce sounds existing in nature. Are there particular natural environments you’re trying to evoke?
It’s more just places that are fragments of real worlds. I think the tracks should be a new place where you can go to. It has to create its own world, its own place. But a lot of tracks on Black Noise remind me of this place we recorded in Switzerland. It was on a mountain, in a fragmented, deserted area, with strange sculptures of rocks that had been there for hundreds of years. Maybe this is the place where the music would relate to most.
I’ve heard you mention that This Bliss concerns movement. How does Black Noise approach the idea of movement?
Yeah, for me This Bliss was the tragedy of the human being in the moment, which is that you can’t move everywhere, you can’t move fast, and there is this certain bliss to it. But it’s also that you lose your focus on reality, you get disconnected from social structures. Black Noise was probably the opposite — about what’s there when you are rooted and focused and what is there when you listen. This principal of black noise, to listen to a sound that’s recorded in a forest, or wherever, and you’re in this moment when you’re not moving.
Technically speaking, black noise is a frequency that’s so low that humans can’t hear it. How does this relate to the album?
I just had this word in my head for some time. We went to this house in Switzerland, and we were going on walks, and I discovered that this forest where we were was a magical part of this mountain. I would walk around for several days, then I discovered this sign on a little house that said there was a landslide in 1916 and the whole village was destroyed. At that point we decided we would set our recording tools in this mountain. Meantime, I was researching on this word, and I found the meaning. Then I said, That’s the connection: The recordings that the whole album is based on are not the recordings that you can actually hear. So it’s this concept of noise that’s there but that you can’t hear it any more.
When recording it, I layered the sound we recorded with digital and analog parts, until it was processed several times. So sometimes the recordings are not there anymore, but the core of the recording is there. And then sometimes the original disappears, so black noise can also be a reflection of the process of making the album. The final point is that black noise is also the frequency that can cause this landslide, which is a starting point. Now I see it like that, but when I was doing it, it wasn’t obvious. Sometimes you get into things and you don’t know where you are, so at a certain point you realize it. Things have to open up and appear to you.
This Bliss and Black Noise are both rhythmic enough for the club, yet melodic and restrained enough for the living room. Where do you get the impulse to emphasize the softer elements of techno?
If you look at shoegaze, the guitarist was really focused and just looking at his shoes. There is this idea of human personality, and there is a certain philosophy behind it. I try to transfer this idea of the guys who are doing the shoegaze stuff — not the music, but the idea behind it. The idea is that music has to work on its own, without the show. It’s just focusing on the music, it’s not about ego and showing yourself.
This is also most important for me to say you can also make it softer; it doesn’t have to bounce and swing and push you the whole time. Club music can also be very mellow and still move the people. Now I’m doing the softer part, but also more rhythm. For me it’s important to always show that you don’t need to force the whole time, which a lot of club dynamics are. So with Pantha it’s that the music can go other ways to reach you, that music can go other ways.