Wednesday, 12 March 2014

patten - ESTOILE NAIANT


You have to think twice when speaking the names of patten's music. The titles with which this mysterious electronic producer crowns his work with, are as plausibly sensical as [now] label cohorts Autechre's recent output. But unlike said established act (and others similarly as well-based) patten's sound feels relatively deliberate in its challenging the listener's perception; impronounceable titles alongside incomprehensible sound structures that nod towards a whole host of musical sub-genres: ambient, techno, ambient-techno, IDM, glitch etc. For someone named after the very meaning of repetitive sequencing, patten's methodology is anything but. So while the Warp upper brass may come away slightly disappointed at the news my eyeballs weren't exactly shooting as far out as they did at the news of Daniel Lopatin entering their roster last year, what could be considered a more-than-fair consolation in the preliminaries, is that patten - following the strangely enticing GLAQJO XAACSSO (struggling with that one fellow readers?) - brings the kind of surreal, out-of-one's-comfort-zone alienation you're likely to find in the most cherished of recent electronic albums as of late. But again, the difference for patten, is that his music doesn't feel suited to simply being assorted into that grimy underground...nor does it either appear featherweight in its appearence. 

Hell, if the Kurt Schwitters-esque album cover and equally-dizzying pronunciation in ESTOILE NAIANT is anything to go by, patten's delivery (let alone its content) may well be alluding to this being as far from any repitable measure of placement and/or positioning on a sonic compass. And just like standing at the [magnetic] poles of our planet, we find in this sophomore patten expanding on the dizzying, mind-numbing etherealness that in-between EP EOLIAN INSTATE appeared to move us towards. There's no denying we've already arrived at the centre-most point on said compass with opener Gold Arc's asynchronous swirl of synthesizers and pulsatting percussion - bass drum and riding cymbals alike - leaving the listener's head whirring to and fro from the sudden illation of the track's rhythm, or lack of. However, while I am enticed by patten's conflicting shake-up of sound with these contrasting textures (especially when the track's bass guitar kicks in) I feel the record gets off on a bit of  misstep; my senses, perhaps more ideally, readying for something to leap out and surprise me, but the song never really progresses or develops enough to give its sonic friction as much integrity as I crave. Fortunately Here Always offers up some improvement on a melodic stand-point with its rise-and-fall sequencing of electronics. And it elevates itself more-so when conjoined with the track's more grizzly-sounding muster of bass; this time the instrument itself sounding like it's digging away at the track...one spade full of dirt after the other.

But it's with Drift that the producer's joint endeavor to systematically lay down a rhythm or flow and dig away at it at the same time, creates some intriguing conflicts of interest. Here, the track's proto-futurist synth leads and beats are given more time to adjust and adapt to the situation before patten lays out his other, alterior motif in these more escapist, jettisoning lofts of electronics and sample loops that fuse together in what is still this scurrying, shapeless mold but at the same time stays true to developing the overall flow and melody which gradually, as the track encompasses more dense, heavier kicks and glitches, begins to create some interesting tension and atmosphere for me to immerse myself in. On moments such as this, patten manages to invoke the same kind of abstract sonics that (to bring him back into context) the likes of Daniel Lopatin has achieved under his OPN banner. Superficially, this may be seen as non-sensical or even formless, yet there are fragments and hints of shape beginning to unfold before us, like in the slightly fluttered, woodwind-esque offerings on Winter Strobing. Admittedly, patten's progression again is often limited and with this frustration, there's also a sense that moments such as these - especially when these varying tones and textures come into play besides all these swirling, in-and-out swatches of electronics - ultimately become missed opportunities.

This is only a missed opportunity in the sense of advancement, rather than outright efficiency, however. There's no denying that components such as the melodies and aesthetics of these tracks are present, lingering perhaps; a better suited, and well-sought method of which patten expresses clearly in the music's translucency and wavy, at-times-erratic nature. Only when we get to tracks like Softer that patten's use of sampling and past influences are incorporated to fruition amid the fray of the song's structure. While there are slight glimpses of ambient influences here, some more-obvious hip-hop ideas crop up in other parts, while a bit of garage murmurs too in the backdrop. Yet the way patten so deliberately collides all these sounds and instrumentals together in a way that's intentionally boggling and dense impresses me more-so given how coherent and focused the music's lead remains - especially when we get the opportunity to really hear the track's colourful percussion loops peeling through the song in a non-volatile fashion. The flip-side to this sampling technique is that at its most bizarre tonally, as on Pathways, the glaring split between the track's extrusive sound effects and the mellower fog of layered synths leaves a lot to answer for. Again, the lack of development or reason for these sounds to be hear leaves the listener at points discounting the quite goofy, sillyness of the effects and trying to home in on what, unfortunately, is branded the 'more serious' sounding efforts. Put bluntly, they feel rather pointless and over-used.

So the album, as is confirmed in the final third of the record's output, ends up see-sawing between a latency for boggling atmospherics, and analog meandering. Whether the prime architect and ignition to which sets this record alight, is of the actual instrumentation or the delivery of the composition, there's no denying that the listener will likely find their connection - or attempt at one - being drawn towards the asynchronous flow that dictates across the tracks' layers.  23-45's swatch of stretching electronics atop a grating, glitching series of notes is definitely one of the more vibrant of patten's efforts here, but taken into consideration how lesser the track is on expanding itself, the ambition sonically falls slightly, but unfortunately, flat. Key Embedded too seeks to emphasize the idea of friction and conflict within itself amid its compressed, subterrean bass synths and percussions. And while the delivery is better here than on previous tracks, I'm again left surprised the song's distinct textures and generally lacking a static post, isn't met by it being pushed further to something more emotive or narrative so as to truly grab me. Agen however is exactly this, and even with its role as being that of the album's closing piece, patten shows allows no alteration so as to make this any less engaging. The success then, and one that is sadly not as present across the record, is the out-of-sync characteristics of the vocal samples and how it brings to light patten's overarching theme of this wildly directionless yet stable hub to which everything appears to flow into/through...and in effect, hearing the results.

I commend patten for taking the seemingly more musically liberal, or perhaps less orderly, route in dissecting what is intended to be this expansive, kaleidoscopic sound - tensions and particular [emotive] suggestions scampering left to right and back again. ESTOILE NAIANT is not bad because it fails to achieve its goals. Rather, it disappoints in not pushing its sound any further than the conventions of which it repeats over. Patten's formulae are by no means standing on their own pedestal, especially now given the rise of more abstracted and/or concrete ideals in contemporay electronic music. But there's a consolation - and quite the rewarding one if you look deep enough and focus hard enough - to find when the producer is at his brightest, or perhaps deliberately foggiest. This intention to dizzy and disorientate the listener is not an easy feat and in parts patten's use of effect processed soundscapes carve out some lush backdrops and counteracting accomplices to what are a host of beats either agitative or simply opposing in nature. And when matters such as melody and progression come into play, they have the potential to really delve into what is so clearly being striven for on an emotive level. Listeners may not pronounce this guy's ideas correctly on first go, and just like its content, the ideas are not as clear-cut or distinctive on first try either. One wrong move and you're meant to imply consequence. Whether or not what I'm experiencing is intended to impose something bad, it's certainly a sound I would like to be enthralled in further down the line.
 ~Jordan Helm

6.3

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