Hendrik Weber’s (a.k.a. Pantha Du Prince) feet have barely touched the ground since the release of his first studio album in six years, The Triad, in May of last year. Rather than do what most of us would do and take a well-earned rest, he has returned to the album to reshape his original vision and strip away the quivering beats and the majority of the vocals to leave a more fragile, hypnotic ambient album. As if that wasn’t enough, he has given the songs over to various other electronic visionaries to remix and packaged them together on a companion album suitably named the Triad Remix EP.
The original album The Triad, full of modular synths and vintage, analogue equipment was a surefooted artistic statement from an artist who had made his name with his experimental, minimalist view of house. It was an album full of memorable electronic hooks, full beats and with Weber’s vocals often taking the lead on more traditionally structured songs. Nevertheless, it still sounded like an album perfectly suited to an ambient makeover.
The album opens with one of The Triad’s most ambient songs, “The Winter Hymn”. The chiming, winter bells and the yawning sigh of his vocals circle and sweep like the ruffle of a light breeze through the trees. “You What? Euphoria!” continues in the same vein as laconic keyboard notes give way to twinkling ambiance that gradually swells before sighing to a standstill. “Frau im Mond, Sterne Laufen” sees Pantha Du Prince cleverly use lightly struck keyboard notes to maintain the beat. Despite the absence of structure it is still one of the most tuneful pieces on the album with melody quickly wrapping itself around the listener. Wisely, Pantha Du Prince ups the tempo slightly on “In an Open Space” which bounces around in the dark before leveling off to become something more dancefloor oriented. However, it is on this track that, for the first time, the vocals are conspicuous by their absence.
Pantha Du Prince’s Karl Hyde-esque drawl which was such a revelation on the The Triad album is also missed on “Islands in the Sky”. The ticking beat and the galvanic bassline are retained but dampened significantly, transforming it from the more upbeat, skewed pop of the original. However, it still maintains a certain catchiness with its repetitious use of showers of notes. Similarly, “Lions Love” is almost unrecognizable, as he softens all of the harder edges of the original and remodels it as a soporific, hypnotic mood piece. Whereas the vocals on The Triad were used to often bold rhythmic effect, here they are largely absent. When they are used, they are used as more opaque sighs which are useful in capturing the unhurried, languid feel of the album.
Nowhere is that clearer than on the gorgeous album closer, “Wallflowers For Pale Saints”. The song retains the ringing layered guitar notes that anchor it but removes the reverb and echo making them brighter and more distinct. In effect, it gives it a much more organic backbone which is then only sparingly augmented with the echoed gust of vocals and softly struck drum beats.
As expected the additional remix EP is a much more energetic affair which sees various house and electronic artists take the originals and brand their mark all over them. The EP features two remixes of “Dream Yourself Awake” by deep house DJ and producer Solomun. The first is a busy affair, crammed with cascading notes before the merest of lulls signals a subterranean house bass line turns it into prime fodder for the dancefloor. Here, Solomun slows the vocals right down giving them a monastic quality. The second version, dubbed the “Dreamversion” uses sweeping, grandiose strings giving the song a more mournful edge. Before long Solomun introduces dramatic, droning synths more akin to the cinematic work of Vangelis. The dystopian sci-fi feel is heightened by his use of Pantha Du Prince’s detached vocals, sounding like historic snippets of found audio which bears little relation to the accompanying music.
On “Lions Love” electronic experimentalist John Roberts strips it back and adds a grimy, hip-hop beat then breaks it up with IDM glitchiness before launching a barrage of noises and effects. It’s a worthy remix that captivates the more times it’s played. German deep house DJ Efdemin gets his hands on arguably the best song from The Triad in “Islands in the Sky” and takes into a much darker dub direction. The heavy, claustrophobic beats and the roll of synths inhabit a dark place, like noises heard in a late night alley. German electronic artist Alva Noto gives “Frau im Mond, Sterne Laufen” an almost industrial makeover with mechanized beats that are oddly danceable as he manages to warp the beats into an almost funky, automated strut.
On The Triad (Ambient Versions & Remixes) Pantha Du Prince has found new ways to express himself within these songs to create something just as captivating as the original. Songs still sore but take longer to reach their apex with greater focus on mood and atmosphere. Coupled with the remix EP, they both offer a fascinating insight into how songs can be stripped back, supplemented or spun around completely to leave something wholly distinctive.