Pantha du Prince

Behind the Stars

(Dial; 2009)

By Chet Betz | 27 May 2009

“Behind the Stars” reminds me of the soundtrack to Run Lola Run. Not good.

Here’s the thing: This Bliss (2007) is a legitimate mind-blower. The sounds are lush, the craft immaculate, and the intrigue bottomless; the more I listen to it the more I’m sure it belongs in my top 25 records of the decade. When Mark and I reviewed it, I felt compelled to interject some comparison to Aguirre: The Wrath of God. And now I’m talking about Run Lola Run, much lower on the rungs of German cinema awesomeness. But it feels pretty apt; just like that film, this new release from Pantha du Prince has a few nifty ideas but feels overly repetitive, has a flashy aesthetic but not much in terms of real pathos. It trades in mystery for gimmicks, depth for a shiny surface. It’s pretty like Franka Potente but it’s also wearing some hideous-ass pants.

It’s also only a single; I’m not denouncing du Prince or anything. Suffer through the black turtleneck vocal clips of the title track and there’s some seriously gorgeous things happening to that synth line prominent in the fourth quarter. Nothing similarly bright to cling to in the barren, despairing slow grind of “Frozen Fog” (a B-side if I ever heard one), but hey, it’s good music to play Fallout 3 to. This Bliss was kinda dark, too, but it was verdant and thus enveloping; these two tracks only get immersive once someone hands you a game controller.

I mean, it’s kind of like Pantha’s playing a videogame. The percussion pumps and pistons dutifully, even powerfully here and there, while knobs get twiddled with deft abandon. Every sonic element quickly falls into place with the proficiency of a Tetris master making short work of an easy level. And, given that framework, it really does start to feel like this single is a culmination of actions that aren’t even directed at us, that are just there for the self-indulgence of the doer or at best are exercises for him to flex his skills. I suppose it’s a sad comment in itself that this review is littered with comparisons, the reason being that there isn’t much within this release itself to analyze. I give it an attempt at full review treatment, though, because Burial and Four Tet proved together that mountains can be moved in the course of just two tracks—and that passion makes the pen flow. Maybe next time Pantha will hook up with Pinch or somebody and make me go off for a thousand words.