I may have made some misplaced assumptions about tonight. Speculations such as all German’s are cold, and sticklers for precision. The Ruby Lounge has a questionable sound system. DJ/producer/computer types live, are always tepid, obvious and repetitive affairs.
The main support is D/R/U/G/S. Now, they are a little repetitive. For a short while I’m unaware they’ve even started. It takes moment to discern that the duo casually hunkering over a laptop are performers, and not just two fellows defragging a hard drive. Maybe the nonchalance is part of their shtick. The music certainly doesn’t warrant air punching, or that smug grimace that lots of laptop-knob twiddling types are doing these days. Nevertheless, even with a non-performer such as say, Gold Panda, you know he’s started at least; there are quite obvious visual clues. Not here. The music isn’t bad, it’s just not particularly very good.
Next up a rather humble gentleman is on stage with a wine glass, some ice, and a couple of bottles of water. He taps and runs a metal wand around the innards of the glass, and a shrill tone bellows echoing through the soundsystem, it now having been transmogrified into a swirling, reverberating cacophony of noise. Instead of keys on a keyboard, he adds an ice cube and the tone and dynamic change. Two cubes, three cubes, some water, circulating the rod round the glass, each time creating a new texture of sound. Eventually he presses play on his machinery and a new set of noises whir into their own. It’s common now for the music producer to do this, bop in time to his pre-programmed bars, but you get the impression that Pantha Du Prince doesn’t subscribe to this mode. His esoteric tampering seems earnest; each track is fresh, organic. ‘Saturn Strobe’ is just as vast in its scope, well beyond the aural confines of the Ruby Lounge. The same can be said for tracks from Black Noise. It’s a rare thing when a musician in a live setting can successfully recreate the minutiae of music as complex as Pantha Du Prince, but somehow, very little is mislaid.
I’m always apprehensive about music makers who rely on computers when they play live. I understand that there are noises no piece of wood or brass or string can produce. It’s the way the musician strums or hits or blows that makes the performance. The DJ taps and twiddles. What’s crucial about live performance is the crowd reaction. All musicians live for the response of a crowd, and it’s this element that links every performer together, no matter what their instrument. Pantha Du Prince is working the crowd into a state somewhere between awe and frenzy. Then there’s the sound. Very pristine. Throughout the night there’s a fellow toward the back of the stage whom I’m sure is on sound duties. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe that’s Herr Hendrik, and the patsy at the front of the stage is a fake.
Either way, tonight Pantha Du Prince, whoever he is, is borderline superb. It’s Tuesday, and working an audience into anything other than a reserved shuffle is a hard task, a task that’s accomplished to perfection.