Mike Patton: The Solitude Of Prime Numbers

thesolitudeofprimenumbers

This sounds like the score of a movie done by Mike Patton. That’s because it is. You’ve seen movies. You’ve listened to Mike Patton. This is the combination of the two.

Not enough? Okay, fine, what if I told you the movie was Italian and about an awkward teenage friendship. Yeah? Now you’re starting to get it?

Yeah, it’s like that. It’s subdued, unlike a lot of Patton because, you know, he has to stay true to the film. And it’s a score, so it’s background-y in a lot of places. But it’s also quite avant-garde because it’s, you know, Mike Patton.

Most of the work here is done with the sound crafting. Reverb is heavy and mostly a result of the room. The instrumentation is mostly a (heavily-reverbed) piano, but there are plenty of electronics, too, especially in the big “Radius Of Convergence” or in more low drone tracks like “Method Of Infinite Descent.” The only vocals are some la la la’s in the first track.

The best stuff is in the first half. Up until, let’s say, track 19, it’s on a four-clown path, but then the back half of the album doesn’t offer anything besides Mehs and it gets a little too background-y for enjoyable listening.

What’s that? Back half after track 19? Oh yeah, that sounds like a lot, but track 19 is really only the eighth track. Because 19 is the eighth prime number. Yeah, check out that track listing, that’s one of the coolest things about this CD: all of the track numbers are prime numbers, from 2 to 53. And the names of the tracks are all mathematical concepts (I just read that, I don’t know any of them, nor did I look them all up).

Yay for weirdo musical scores.

Rating:
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Like: “Twin Primes,” “Identity Matrix,” “Contrapositive,” “Abscissa,” “Isolated Primes”
Meh: “Method Of Infinite Descent,” “Cicatrix,” “Radius Of Convergence,” “Separatrix,” “The Snow Angel,” “Apnoea,” “Supersingular Primes,” “Quadratix,” “Calculus Of Finite Differences,” “Zeroth,” “Weight Of Consequences (Quod Erat Demonstrandum)”
Filed Between:
 Mike Patton’s Mondo Cane and something else but I don’t know because I haven’t unpacked my CDs
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

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Fantômas: The Director’s Cut Live, A New Year’s Revolution

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Let’s start with a brief overview of Fantômas’s history. In 1999, the band would, composed of members of Mr. Bungle, Melvins, and Slayer, lead off Ipecac Recordings’ catalog with IPC-001, their self-titled album. Two years later they’d come along with their masterpiece, The Director’s Cut, IPC-017, 15 tracks that are covers of movie themes (plus a four second untitled track), some that you’ve heard (The GodfatherRosemary’s Baby) and more that you haven’t. In 2004 and 2005 they’d release a forgettable pair of albums (the latter of which I reviewed at an old joint) before going into a cold war of hibernation. (I read one interview with guitarist Buzz Osborne, the Melvins representative, where he said, “Ask [lead singer] Mike [Patton],” when asked why we hadn’t seen any Fantômas releases for a while.) Amid that somewhat bizarre somewhat public airing of grievances, Osborne and Patton managed to get together to perform this New Year’s show, replacing drummer Dave Lombardo (also of Slayer) with Melvins’ Dale Crover. (The only member you have not yet been introduced to in this review is Mr. Bungle’s bassist Trevor Dunn.)

It’s not clear when this was recorded, though it was on a New Year’s Day. Given that it was released in September(!) 2011, it’s safe to say this was recorded starting at midnight on January 1, 2011 in San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall. I have some difficult history with Fantômas live. On New Year’s Eve 1999 I disappointedly showed up at their show just at the end of their set (they were second in a lineup of five). And on something like September 14th or 15th 2001 I had tickets to their show in Minneapolis, but because some assholes flew planes into the World Trade Center a few days prior, I couldn’t get out of Portland in order to see it. And then I feel like I did see them on the Suspended Animation tour in Boston with The Locust opening, but I don’t see a review of that show.

So, anyway, it’s weird that the band would perform the entirety of this album ten years after its release and six years after they’d released anything at all, but I was happy to get it even then since it really is an amazing album. They do the entire thing live, but in a different order, and they pull it off, too, which is impressive since there are an awful lot of studio tricks and the virtuosity required is nothing to sneeze at either.

But more than the excellent source material, the exquisite performances, and the fantastic sound, this DVD is special because of the visual production. The first few tracks start off pretty standard, and then over the next 40 minutes or so things start getting trippier and trippier. It starts with some intentionally grainy footage and a few different screens, and moves onto ghost images, a rotating stage, and special effects that include distorting the band’s faces into demons from a terrible acid trip. It’s appropriate for a soundtrack consisting of horror movie themes.

The encore has them doing a fart-heavy (no, really) version of Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful” over visuals of bears and gorillas taking shits (no, really) and closing with “Chariot Choogle,” a T-Rex cover and probably my favorite song of theirs. I might have been tempted to give this five clowns had they stopped there, but for some reason they end with some weird guy who seems like he might be homeless and has recently been discharged from the hospital viewing the footage in a trailer and making “commentary” on it. It’s very difficult to watch.

Fortunately, there is a more real commentary on the concert done by comedian Neil Hamburger. This won’t be for everybody, but fans of alternative comedy and Fantômas should enjoy it. It’s a single, still camera recording Hamburger watch the DVD on his bed in the Destiny Inn in Commerce, California, which he tells us is directly between a freeway (that we can see out his window) and train tracks. He proceeds at a very deliberate pace to describe his terrible stand-up show that night in Industry, instruct us on how to check for bedbugs (he finds none this night), complain about the band’s sloppy dress, and hide a room key from a prior hotel so that whoever finds it can win an Ipecac Recordings “prize pack,” among other things. There’s very little describing the actual concert, but it doesn’t matter since it’s hilarious.

Coming into this I thought this would just be a standard concert DVD, and based on the history of the band, it felt like it had a real chance to just be a money grab. But I was very pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed watching it this week. Here’s a tip, though: This performance has such giant dynamic range that you don’t want to listen to it in the evenings on your TV while you want your kids to be sleeping and not overhearing a rock band singing horror songs and cussing. It’s better to pop this into a PC with an optical drive and put on some awesome headphones. Let yourself fall into the mesmerizing sounds and visuals Fantômas has for you.

Rating:
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Filed Between: I haven’t unpacked my DVDs yet, either, but based on my review of The Fantômas Melvins Big Band DVD, it’s probably between that and High Fidelity.
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Bohren & Der Club Of Gore: Beileid

beileidBohren certainly isn’t for everybody. They are slow and quiet. I mean they are really slow, as if they’re in some kind of slow contest for slow people. Amirite? But I’ve been a fan, especially of their 2008 Ipecac release Dolores. Unfortunately, three years later Beileid is a big fat miss. Well, it’s not that big: it’s only three tracks spread over 35 minutes [sic].

Whereas before, the fact that the music was slow and ambient didn’t seem to prevent it from being interesting, here there’s just nothing, kind of like a nature sounds CD or a Windham Hill something something. And when they do add something, like vocals (by Mike Patton, no less) in a cover of a metal song on “Catch My Heart,” it ends up being a mess with the instruments battling the vocals in a fight where you don’t want either one to win, and neither does.

“Zombies Never Die (Blues)” is harmless/boring and “Beileid” gets nice at the end but takes too long to get there.

Rating:
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– “Zombies Never Die (Blues),” “Beileid”
– “Catch My Heart”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Dub Trio: Another Sound Is Dying

anothersoundisdyingDub Trio’s Another Sound Is Dying is a very good record. But it’s also a failure.  The band’s schtick is that they combine an aggressive instrumental punk/metal hybrid thing with dub. So you’ve got thrashy headbanging stuff going on for most of most songs, and then for a minute or two of each song, usually in the middle, they break into dub. A nice idea for a song experiment or two, but as the basis for an entire band it doesn’t quite work.

Every once in a while, it does work, like on album opener “Regression Line,” but for the most part you end up wondering why they’re still in dub mode and when they’re going to get back to rocking it hard. I mean, I’m not sure what mood you would be in that you’d want to, over the course of an entire album, be swung back and forth between thrash and dub.

The best parts, and there are plenty of them, are when they integrate the timbres of dub (or just wacked-out studio inventions) into the fabric of the metal stuff. It’s always impressive when a band can layer tons of different sounds on a song and make it sound like it couldn’t be any other way. That’s what Dub Trio is best at, and thankfully there’s enough of it to enjoy here that that’s what you end up remembering the most about it.

Oddly, the worst song on the album is “No Flag,” where Mike Patton guests. On some of his more recent stuff he’s completely mailing it in. I mean this scary voice talky stuff followed by screams…we’ve heard that in at least two or three different places before. And this track as a whole kind of sounds like it’s Sepultura’s “Lookaway” redux.

This is a band trying to milk an idea too far. They’re excellent at merging different sounds and styles together, but switching from metal to dub in almost all of their songs feels forced and arbitrary. Once you focus on their strengths, though, and forget about the overreach, it’s a damn fine listen.

Rating:
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– “Regression Line,” “Not For Nothing,” “Felicitation,” “Bay Vs. Leonard,” “Jog On”
– “No Flag,” “Respite,” “Who Wants To Die?,” “The Midnight Runner,” “Safe And Sane,” “Agonist,” “Fuck What You Heard,” “Mortar Dub,” “Funishment”

Song Notes: After the jump
Continue reading

2011 Clownies

Yes, 2011, because I’m behind. And if you don’t mind, Ima half-ass this because otherwise it ain’t ever getting done.

Album Of The Year – There’s No 666 In Outer Space by Hella
I reviewed no five clown albums in 2011 and a handful of 4.5 clown albums. Looking over that list the one I remember liking the most was Hella’s.

Artist Of The Year – Imani Coppla
I thought I was going to go with Rick Springfield, because I reviewed so much of his stuff in 2011, but then I realized it was mostly the crap stuff. I also considered Mike Patton who, between his solo stuff and Tomahawk, had two four-clowns discs and one that was 3.5 clowns. But the artists I walk away from most excited about in 2011 was Imani Coppola. Pretty surprised, looking back, that that disc wasn’t 4.5 clowns.

Song Of The Year – “Theme From Mission Magic” by Rick Springfield
It was the Best Song Ever.

Kaada/Patton: Live

Kaada/Patton got four [clowns] for their Romances album when I reviewed that back in the day.  Now that I’ve seen this DVD of them playing the album live at Roskilde in 2007, though, I feel I didn’t lavish enough praise on that disc.  I’ve taken the chance to revisit it while working through this concert and have come to appreciate it more fully.  I hadn’t previously conceptualized the work as a single suite, thinking of it instead as an album of songs.  Seeing it performed start to finish in front of an audience, however, I don’t think it can be taken as anything but a single, epic work weaving modern pop, electronic, and avant-garde art music together.

I really like this DVD but, truth be told, I didn’t like it the first time through.  In fact, I quite detested it.  There were a number of factors that contributed to that, but I think the primary reason was that the middle section, from “Aubade” through “Viens, Les Gazons Sont Verts,” is so challenging, sparse, and nontraditional that, especially in front of a live crowd, it felt more like navel gazing than thoughtful entertainment.  That was also before I’d spent more time with the CD, and I think having that baseline in my mind as the target of what it was “supposed” to sound like helped me realize that they’d really done a fine job of translating much of the more challenging studio constructions into performance-ready material.  (The 16.5-minute DVD rehearsal film extra helped me understand this as well.)

So you end up appreciating this on two levels, kind of.  First, there’s the beautiful, lush, layered synths of pieces “Pitié Pour Mes Larmes” (featuring slide guitar here, which is an interesting translation of a particular studio sound), “L’Absent,” and “Seule.”  And then there’s the more cognitive workout of the blips and bleeps of pieces like “Crépuscule.”  Finally, there’s actually a third level where it all comes together and you integrate the other two levels, appreciating the 52 minutes as a magnificent work of instrumentation, composition, and performance.

It’s really an amazing work and I’m so, so happy I got to spend more time with it.  Maybe if “L’absent” didn’t drag quite as much or “Nuit Silencieuse” translated to a live setting better, this could be five clowns.  I’m at least going to right the wrong of several years ago, though, and give this four-and-a-half clowns, which is a half-[clown] more than I gave the CD and at least what it deserved.

Rating:
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Filed Between:
ISIS (Clearing The Eye) and Mother Love Bone (The Love Bone Earth Affair) in the video section

Notes:

  • Roskilde is, of course, now synonymous with the Pearl Jam tragedy. It looks like they’re in a club during the day, though. There’s a low ceiling and you can see outside.
  • This is in black and white.
  • That guitarist, who’s totally awesome, looks so scary.
  • This whole band rules.
  • John Kaada and the five other non-Patton band members are all Norwegian.  So why are the song titles in French?
  • Names to consider naming Next: Geir, Erland, Hallvard, Børge. Joakim, Rasmus, Jan, Mads, Rikke, Svein, Siv, Reidar, Ove, Rai, Pål.
  • I think the sound, which isn’t bad, but isn’t as lush as the studio, might hurt things here. That middle stuff is hard in the studio, too, but here even the great parts don’t sound as great.  Later: I’ve come to reconcile this as the price you pay for having this performed in a live context.  See the review for my evolution on that.

Track Notes:

  1. Intro – band walking in and all that.
  2. Legless Liss – Not on album.  The bassist pulls off the whistling “cadence from hell.”
  3. Invocation – Here the album starts.
  4. Pitié Pour Mes Larmes – “One is for the money, ….” The guit is doing a slide thing here that I don’t remember from the album. Gives it a country feel.
  5. Aubade – This is probably the hardest point of the show, especially for an audience member who didn’t have the scaffolding of knowing the album available. When it looks like Mike’s singing he’s just making noises with his mouth, and you can barely hear that. The sound is working here, there’s just very little to hear. When they do come back big, it is nice. I don’t know if the length and depth of the quiet stretch is justified, though. There’s also a fake fade out ending followed by yet another big comeback.
  6. L’Absent – Sounds like a recorded backup choir, which I don’t remember from the cd. The sparse quiet part in here, which is basically just the guitarist playing chords slowly for several bars, is too long and just doesn’t hold together live. This is a great DVD, but these sparse parts don’t work in this setting…it’s too hard to stay focused. That’s its biggest liability.  Later: Again, I largely reconciled this after re-acquainting myself with the CD.
  7. Crepuscule –
  8. Viens, Les Gazons Sont Verts – This is the comeback song where they start to make it all work again for the new listener.
  9. Seule –
  10. Pensée Des Morts –
  11. Nuit Silencieuse –
  12. The Cloroform Theme – The other track that’s not on the album. This one’s pretty cool. Credits here, too.  Cloroform is Kaada’s band.
  13. Handwritten copyright notification and warning
  14. Menu

Extras Notes:

  • Rehearsal Film – This is 16:32 long. The sad music (“Seule,” I think) at the end is kind of funny but it also kind of works. Shows them loading into a tent at the end.
  • Photo Gallery – Unnecessary. In fact I think these are stills from the show now that I’ve seen both at least a couple of times. 58 pics.