Published Jul 04, 2016Pantha Du Prince's minimal techno style, so clean and precise on record, was lent human gusto at their Montreal Jazz Festival performance at the Metropolis last night (July 3).
Mastermind Hendrik Weber, parked at a table filled with gear, was flanked by his The Triad compatriots: Scott Mou (a.k.a. Queens) at a similarly laid out table, and percussionist Bendik Hovik Kjeldsberg (a.k.a. the Bell Laboratory) at a drum kit. All three wore head mirrors at least three times the size of a doctor's, obscuring their faces in shadows while condensing the spotlights shining down on them and sending them back outwards.
Kjeldsberg was central throughout the night, bringing the tracks to life in a way that programmed drums couldn't have, his tight playing propelling Black Noise's "The Splendour." You could feel the bass kick in your throat. Weber, dressed in a thick robe that looked warm enough to keep all three musicians warm, cued the bells before getting on the mic for the epic "Chasing Vapour Trails," where he sounded as rich and warm as he does on record.
There was precious little to differentiate songs, as the trio wove the tracks into what ended up falling somewhere between a medley and a typical DJ set. "Chasing Vapour Trails" mutated into "Frau im Mond, Sterne Laufen" so slowly it was almost indiscernible until the track hit its stride, providing an early highlight; by this point, the trio had removed both their head mirrors and the masks that replaced them, as if to take full, unmistakeable credit for the powerful performance.
The trio entered a deconstructivist phase later in the song, bringing it down to just a single element or two before building it back up together, Weber locking eyes with Kjeldsberg both to nod his approval and keep in time. Then, they hit their stride again with a bubbly performance of "You What? Euphoria!" that exuded all the joy of the song's title. As they built to a crescendo, then exploded into the climax, the crowd responded, moving with more vigour than ever to the sounds onstage, but it was the slow, nuanced way the song ended that really demonstrated the attention to detail that Weber and his cohorts were practicing, the slow sonic crumble of the song the work of masters.
Queens took the mic for "In an Open Space," though he was somewhat inaudible over the clatter; there was a noticeable different between the moments that the trio were locked into a groove and when they were meandering towards it, as they were for the sung portion of the song.
"Behind the Stars" was performed with all the dark elegance that defines it on Black Noise as Mou's and Weber's voices, both in a low register, combined to mesmeric effect. Chimes near the song's end added melodic dimension, as warm, dimly lit light bulbs flashed around them. At the song's end, the trio left the stage.
The crowd cheered ravenously for an encore, and the trio obliged them with the opening chimes of "The Winter Hymn," Mou hitting his falsetto for the early coos as Kjeldsberg played his disco shuffle with aplomb. Though it wasn't the final song, it perhaps should have been; it was a thing of perfect dynamism.
At some points, the song was reduced to bass throbs and a smattering of drums; at its height, it was a master class on what electronic music can be with that most crucial element, a human heartbeat, at its core.