It is somewhat unfortunate that the bell has become so inextricably linked with death. A victim of its own far-reaching power, death bells became an ominous town crier. John Donne did it no favors. Even the steady ringing of clock towers can be seen as a sort of audible hourglass on our own existence. So perhaps it is no surprise that we often forget how beautiful bells can be. Consider a joyous wedding, the satisfying page for an absent hotel clerk, or Elements of Light, the fourth album from electronic producer Pantha du Prince.
Released Jan. 15, the album is a collaboration between Pantha (Hendrik Weber) and Norwegian musicians The Bell Laboratory, but taking a star-stealing turn is a bell carillon, a three-tonne instrument comprised of 50 bronze bells. Weber has taken the bell carillon and the talented musicians and woven an intricate tapestry of electronic, classical and house music, consisting of five individual tracks that run together as one continuous work.
Opener “Wave” is a hypnotic introduction, presenting the carillon and urging patience before the well-paced “Particle”. The twelve-and-a-half minute track lets the bells clink and click into minimalist techno, displaying skilled organization and deft patience. The payoffs are subtle here (and throughout) owing as much to modern composers Philip Glass and John Cage as it does to electronic contemporaries like Robag Wruhme.
And like any good conductor, Weber does a masterful job shifting focus and sharing the spotlight. He seamlessly integrates his electronic percussion and production (see: “Photon”), mimicking a DJ mix with one hand, a bandleader’s baton with the other.
Atmospheric and ephemeral, the album is not a dinner bell for those hungry for the dance floor. Rather, its an understated experience that rewards multiple listens, each one further impressing on how so many disparate elements can come together to form something so intricately beautiful.
Live performances are being planned and if previews like this are any indication, it will be a sight to behold, however fleeting it may be.