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Pantha Du Prince and the Bell Laboratory: Elements of Light (Rough Trade)

Pantha Du Prince joins forces with a brigade of bells.

Bells: They can make for the most magical of musical ornamentation, their gliding chimes, airy jingles and graceful peals signifying a blissful trip through heaven’s gate on one’s way toward the astral plane. On the other hand, their singular sound can end up as the lead character in a portentous piece of grandiosity like Mike Oldfield’s 1973 opus, Tubular Bells. But electronic-music producer Pantha Du Prince—the musical alias of Hendrik Weber, the German maker of sometimes-deep, sometimes-tough, sometimes-odd but always-wonderful house and techno—has a bit of experience with bells; his 2010 album, Black Noise, was brimming with ringers. That record contained some of the loveliest music of a discography full of transcendent moments. But with Elements of Light, Weber’s collaboration with a crew of technically precise Norwegian players—not to mention a massive carillon, a three-ton beast featuring 50 bronze bells—he may have outdone himself; it’s a minimalist-yet-rich gem of an album.

The carillon is only the half of it: Elements of Light features xylophones, marimbas, chimes, tubular bells and almost anything else capable of creating a bong, jangle, toll or tinkle, with Jaga Jazzist’s Martin Horntveth and Madrugada’s Erland Dahlen among those joining Weber in the studio. Presented as a suite, its five pieces only occasionally flirt with anything overtly “clubby”: The transition from “Particle” to “Photon”—a heavy kick drum and low-frequency throb cutting through a ghostly hum—is about as dance-floor-worthy as things get. The pleasure comes in the small moments of wonder, which the album has in abundance; it’s a contemplative affair, with drones and meditative patterns occasionally congealing into beautiful, miniaturized lullabies. Gentle melodies arise from the thrum which then morph into new melodies and rhythms, the composition ebbing and flowing in a vaguely narrative manner. Toward the end of the next-to-last segment, “Spectral Split,” the bells coalesce around a triumphant tune; just as suddenly, the tune devolves back into a somewhat ominous drone, leaving the final piece, “Quantum,” to close the album out with a gentle release. Both dazzling and serene, the work signals yet another step in Pantha Du Prince’s evolution as something much more than just a clubland favorite.

Follow Bruce Tantum on Twitter: @BruceTantum