Prins Thomas Principe Del Norte Remixed
Ricardo Villalobos, Gerd Janson and the Orb are among those weighing in on Prins Thomas's recent ambient works.
Prins Thomas has been on a run as of late, to put it mildly. In the past two and a half years, he’s unleashed four high-profile and well-received albums: 2014 saw the Rainbow Disco Club Vol. 1 mix on Endless Flight and Prins Thomas III on his own Full Pupp; the sprawling Paradise Goulash set came out on Eskimo Recordings in 2015; and an LP of (mostly) ambient, kosmische-tinged workouts, Principe Del Norte, popped up on Smalltown Supersound in the waning days of this past winter. So how do you try and top that?
In the man born Thomas Moen Hermansen’s case, you don’t—you enlist an A-list array of electronic-music notables—Hieroglyphic Being, Ricardo Villalobos, Gerd Janson, the Orb, Young Marco and I:Cube among them—to do the heavy listing for you. (Psyche-rock combo Dungen is an outlier among the remixers, while Thomas himself contributes one rework and three all-new originals.) While Principe Del Norte Remixed probably won’t erase the memory of its predecessor’s slow-drift, dim-the-lights charms, it’s a notable addition to Thomas’s ongoing string of successes.
As with any remix project, it’s tempting to perform a side-by-side, track-by-track comparison, determining just much of the originals’ DNA is still intact, or how much new information was gene-spliced into the tune. Take the Gerd Janson remix of “A1,” for instance (you’ll recall Principe Del Norte’s prosaic nomenclature): the Running Back label boss takes Thomas’s oscillating synth patterns, strips them down, then adds a staccato bassline and a percolating buoyancy—basically transforming the cut into an sturdy and emotive house tune. On the other hand, aural experimentalist Sun Araw reconstructs the gentle bass throbs, delicate fret work and pastoral feel of “B” into a different, oddly affecting beast entirely. The low-end pulses now stumble rather than pulse; the guitar now appears as ruptured twangs; a circus of blurts and cascades alter its essence completely.
But it’s best to appreciate these interpretations as stand-alone pieces. Hieroglyphic Being contributes a pair of pressurized versions of “D”: his first features what sounds like a pops orchestra warming up for a big show as a freight train speeds nearby and clattering percussion keeps time, while his Beat mix drops the orchestral warm-ups for some frenzied looping of the orchestra itself. With its creepy-crawly pacing, horror-film organs and harmonizing clarinet runs, Dungen’s version of the same track has little in common with Hieroglyphic Being’s, yet somehow ends up in a similarly tension-filled place.
Villalobos gives us two takes of “C”—and as you might expect from the Chilean iconoclast, they’re a pair of drawn-out, pared-down, tightly-coiled percussion workouts, with rubbery thumps syncopating with metallic clangs and snatches of melody. They’re both a bit on the barren side, but it’s a desolation that’s brimming with a weird sort of vitality. I:Cube’s remix of “C” also is full of life, though its exuberance is of a distinctly pastel tint: its pleasingly plodding gait, big snare, poignant melody and ’80s vibe give it the feel of a particularly sinuous Simple Minds instrumental, perhaps lifted from a long-lost John Hughes masterwork.
The album’s three Thomas originals, “I,” “J” and “K,” are all worthy listens: the first two are distinct variations on a streamlined cruise down a rain-slicked street, while “K” is a acidic tech-funker worthy of Hardfloor, albeit a Hardfloor with a loose-limbed approach to drum patterns.
But the best of the set might be one of the Orb’s two adaptations, specifically the epic Heaven or Hell remix of “H.” A cavernous, multi-part Tenaglia-esque epic, loaded with thudding drums, walloping bass and swirling filigree, it’s the toughest track that the Orb has laid down in years. It’s also one of Principe Del Norte Remixed’s best moments—and in this LP’s wide-ranging embarrassment of riches, that’s saying a lot.