For his latest album as Pantha du Prince, German sound artist Hendrik Weber didn’t want to work as a one-man show. He had ensconced himself away for previous albums such as 2010’s Black Noise, producing minimal house beats alone in a studio. This time, he enlisted two fellow musicians — Norwegian Bendik Kjelsberg and American Scott Mou — to collaborate in writing and recording. Their input gave the album its name: The Triad.
“The Triad is really about interaction more than a solitary vision,” explains Weber, who will perform at Floyd Miami Thursday, May 18. “I wanted to open the process at an earlier stage and see what would come out of it. And now I know.”
The band toured behind the 2016 album, even making a stop at last year’s III Points Festival in Miami. Usually, after an artist has taken his album on the road, he goes back to the drawing board for the next album. But Weber wasn't done with The Triad just yet. He continued to review old sessions and made a very simple adjustment.
“We just muted the beat track,” he says, “and [that] was so interesting. All the music works without the beat track, and that’s a sign of very stable communication on our part.”
With a few extra edits — some reverb here, a bit of delay there — Weber and mastering engineer Kassian Von Troyer had soon created an entirely different album from the same foundation. Weber sent it off to the people at his label, Rough Trade Records, to see what they thought of it. To his surprise, they wanted to press it to vinyl.
“I was like, ‘Here, maybe we can release this as some sort of extra for The Triad,’ and they wanted to do it like this because they believed in it as a record.”
The Triad: Ambient Versions will be available June 9 to stream and purchase as a limited-edition LP, along with a Remixes EP featuring acid-house DJ Recondite, deep-house producer Solomun, and The Revenant composer and experimental stalwart Alva Noto. Remixes are one thing, but Ambient Versions offers a completely different interpretation of the original work. By removing the beats, Weber and company have opened the album up, altering the sonic texture of the already warm and inviting songs within. Without a steady beat, our attention is drawn further to the emotional hues and textures of each track. We feel them more intensely. It shows us what can be added by subtracting.
Weber sees the album as an example of the wide effects of a small change. Removing something from an environment doesn’t necessarily damage it, but it does alter our perceptions.
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“When you also look at the world, if you would just remove all the cars, imagine how the world would change,” he muses. “Or if you would have an open terrace with a lot of columns and you remove all the columns, what would happen to the scenery? You’d see the doors behind the columns, and so on.”
Such erudite reflections might be the result of a thoroughly un-German influence: the alternative communities in 1960s America. Before heading to California for a residency at Los Angeles club Villa Aurora, Weber attended an exhibition in Berlin called “California and the Disappearance of the Outsider.” It introduced him to ideas from the mid-20th-century counterculture — the era of the Black Mountain College and the Whole Earth Catalog, of expanded consciousness and global awareness — that informed the album’s production. Exploring these concepts upended his sense of German orderliness and austerity and gave him a new experimental spirit.
“It definitely made it more, let’s say, juicy.”