01.08.2009, Words by Charlie Jones

Live at Robert Johnson

A few years ago, you would have been forgiven for assuming that Prins Thomas and Lindstrom were joined at the hip after they popped up, in 2003, scruffy and unkempt – as if returning after three decades of orbiting space in a shuttle equipped with nothing but modular synthesisers. Today, although the two remain practically inseparable (earlier this year saw the release of their second collaborative album, ‘II’), 2007 saw Thomas take a step out of the partnership with his debut two-CD mix, Cosmo Galactic Prism. Championed for its eclecticism, the mix is a slow-burning walk though fey jazz melodies into the stickier cosmic-tinged territory that we have come to expect from Thomas. His more recent solo mix (recorded live at the Frankfurt institution, Robert Johnson ), while tracing similar ground, ventures out even further into the ether.

What is so remarkable about this carefully navigated trip is its effortlessness; the sheer ease with which he guides the listener through his constructed universe while casually unveiling moments of aesthetic wonder along the way. Any mixed compilation can be described to some degree as a journey – whether it evokes a clunky trip headfirst down a flight of stairs, or a leisurely stroll through an idyllic valley. The listener is led down a path, guided by the flow of the DJ’s stream of musical consciousness. Thomas’ set – delicately conceived and jam packed with spontaneity – is no exception.

Kicking off with Idjut Boys’ edit of Arpadys, Thomas offers a tableau of what is to follow – teasing his listener by filtering and phasing over chugging guitar strings ready for the salacious slap-bass line. Emerging minutes later from the darkness is Trans AM’s kraut rock classic ‘First Words’ which, although unexpected, is in no way out of place and offers the first example what this mix does best. Thomas’ edit of James Yuill’s ballad ‘This Sweet Love’ does a similar thing – appearing as a breezy hiatus from the ominous piano stabs of Still Going’s take on Low Motion Disco. The mix’s zenith is the arrival of the infectious ‘Build The Band’ by Cos/Mes, which reveals Thomas’ sense of humour in a moment so joyous and demonstrative that it is almost tongue-in-cheek – the whole thing held together by the sheer brilliance of a record so potently rhythmical.

At times moody and aloof, and others quirky and playful, Thomas never strays too far from the initial tone he sets – cosmic disco meets progressive rock, as threads of acidic techno and minimal grooves are interrupted by sudden explosions of Italo melodies and Balearic synths and vocals. Despite the flashes of colour, the mix never loses its thread. The open spaces rarely become oppressive – the listener is effortlessly guided from location to location. Where other mixes aim to stimulate the body, this one chooses to occupy the mind.

Prins Thomas – Live At Robert Johnson is out now.

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