Thomas Moen Hermansen, better known as Prins Thomas, is definitely in his element arranging music of extended length. With an excess of 90 minutes over nine tracks, his fourth long player Principe Del Norte, is no exception. Its release marks two distinct deviations that nod to a conscious shift in pace and focus for the Norwegian producer. First, this LP is the first to see a release outside the Scandinavian’s Full Pupp domain – instead it finds its home within the ranks of Oslo’s Smalltown Supersound. Less importantly, the album title meanders away from a would-be Prins IV (though this is still not out of the question). These changes are reflected in content too; while Hermansen’s cosmic palette remains clear and intact, noticeable parallels exist between ’90s ambient and ’70s prog rock, grounding proceedings firmly in eras gone by.
The first half of the record is resolutely beatless. Drum machines are swapped for layers of looped synthesis and arpeggiated excursions that develop over drawn out sections of increasing complexity. With this in mind it’s easy to liken to the psychedelic explorations of Tangerine Dream, Genesis or The Orb; the introduction of hypnotic bass hooks and reverb-washed guitar riffs doused in delay only confirms this comparison.
The latter half of the album highlights Thomas’ inclination towards ownership. At one stage, album material was to be presented to others for remix duties but further music materialised from the man himself before anyone else had the chance. ‘E’ provides a stiff disco skeleton for the unyielding arp synth and effects-laden guitars of ‘A1’ and the dissonant synth from ‘C’ lingers in faster-paced ‘G’. These rearrangements feel instantly accessible and successfully foster the album’s tasteful “hark-back” ideals with an energised purpose.
To make sense, this album really needs a couple of uninterrupted listens, but your play order doesn’t need to follow the simplistic letter titles; a melange of synth loops, fx-heavy guitar licks and tasteful disco reworks make for an album that delivers depth in many dimensions.
Principe Del Norte is out now on Smalltown Supersound. Pick up a copy here.
Words: Nick Moore