Traumprinz clearly has no interest in eking out a conventional legacy.
Though Traumprinz—also known as DJ Metatron and Prince of Denmark—is a big deal in dance music, you’d be forgiven for not knowing who he is. In fact, no one knows who he is; his name, face and place of origin are unknown. We only know he’s a he because he was signed to Giegling, a promising bastion for ambient techno that fell from grace after founder Konstantin’s disparaging remarks about female DJs. (Traumprinz and Giegling have since parted ways.) His releases are too long, too purist and too hard to access to make much of a dent in the indie world, let alone the mainstream. But you could practically hear Beatlemaniac screams in the underground dance world when he announced he’d be dropping two new albums on Easter 2018.
Easter is appropriate given Traumprinz’s penchant for surrounding himself in religious iconography as well as his retirement of the Prince of Denmark name, which he’s resurrected as Prime Minister of Doom. Indeed, this dual release comes on so strong that fans may be surprised by how relatively slight these two albums are. Nothing 2 Loose, released as DJ Healer, is an atmospheric blur closer in sound and (holy) spirit to Yves Tumor’s Experiencing the Deposit of Faith than any dance record. The Prime Minister of Doom release, Mudshadow Propaganda, is a granite-grey slab of purist techno that’d be at home bouncing off the walls of Berghain even as its sharp sound design brings out details that would disappear on the dancefloor.
The DJ Healer release is the more immediately compelling of the two, simply because it has less precedent in the Traumprinz discography. While there’s more than enough Prince of Denmark to go around—his 2016 album 8 was named after the number of records it occupied, sprawling to nearly three hours—Nothing 2 Loose elaborates on his underutilized DJ Metatron alias, named for the Biblical voice of God and devoted to low-and-slow ambient house with an undercurrent of religious awe. When a vocoder whispers across a vast plain of ambient synth on “Great Escape,” we intutively understand it’s Metatron we’re hearing, because just like the name “Metatron,” it could belong to either a divine being or a Transformer.
But for most of the project, DJ Healer works a little more like the angels in Wings of Desire, floating above an endless cityscape and listening to the thoughts and crises of mortals. Voices appear throughout, all in varying states of rapture. “That’s God’s creation,” says one voice over and over, as if pointing out each tree and stone in the park. On the flipside of the emotional spectrum, there’s “The Interview,” its introduction sampled from a 2002 interview with Whitney Houston where she lays bare her demons. It’s dubious to use a real singer’s real pain in service of a self-help aesthetic, but at least “The Interview” doesn’t use her as winking pop-culture ephemera; this isn’t DJ Boring’s “Winona.” Here, she could be anyone with the same problems.
Nothing 2 Loose is in the tradition of albums like Luomo’s Vocalcity and Burial’s Untrue: endless cityscapes that would feel dead and forbidding if they weren’t alive with the murmur of voices. This is the most amorphous album in the Traumprinz discography—it could be called ambient without much ruffling of feathers—and the delineations between tracks are less important than the individual moments that stand out from the murk. Its weakest tracks are the ones that make themselves known as tracks. “We are Going Nowhere” seems to be intended as a centerpiece, but it takes us out of the album and into clubland; its “O Superman” sample, furthermore, is as distractingly recognizable as an indie rock band covering “Blister in the Sun.”
Besides, Nothing 2 Loose doesn’t need to feature dancefloor fodder when Traumprinz has concurrently dished up a whole album of exactly that. Mudshadow Propaganda continues in the vein of the Prince of Denmark project, but it’s a little less hazy and more clearly defined, meaning it’s not quite as mysterious as 8 or The Body—and less conducive for home listening. Though there are impressive individual sounds, like the congas on the first few tracks or the synths that eventually consume “The Wai,” this release will be more of interest to DJs than the average listener. It’s rock-solid techno and it creates a consistently subterranean mood, but it also serves to remind us why so few of the legendary Berlin DJs have made enduring artist albums.
Traumprinz clearly has no interest in eking out a conventional legacy. He doesn’t DJ, almost unheard-of among dance producers, and by withholding his name while working under multiple monikers, he’s made discussing his work more difficult than it needs to be. You could feasibly ask someone if they’ve heard Traumprinz and receive a negative response before naming Prince of Denmark and receiving an affirmative reply. Even without a great album (yet), Traumprinz could go down as one of the greatest dance producers of all time, and despite the considerable handicaps he imposes on himself, he proceeds through the motions of his music career so effortlessly it’s almost like he was taking direction from, well, the voice of God.