Mike Patton & Ictus Ensemble
02 July 2012
by David Keevill
It really is saying something if you have to check Mike Patton against the eccentricity scale to see if he’s wandered past “manically kooky” and into the realms of “wobble custard emu”. This is a man who’s partially responsible for Faith No More following up The Real Thing with Angle Dust – an album as hooky as it is strange. It captures the eternally contrarian attitude of a man who had the world within his grasp, and quite happily let it slip through his fingers. Yes, I think it’s safe to say that Mike Patton is a man quite happy to spend every minute of every day defying the world’s expectations.
It should therefore come as no surprise that Patton has taken another left turn, in the form of an album featuring a reworking of Luciano Berio’s Laborintus II, alongside the Brussels-based Ictus Ensemble. The recording details a moment in 2010 when Patton joined the orchestra to pay tribute to Berio’s seminal work. For the uninitiated (of whose ranks this writer was a member prior to reading about the composer five minutes ago), Luciano Berio was an Italian composer who became famous for his use of jazz-infused-classical-pseudo-electronic music. Laborintus II in particular follows this wacky musical vein, and was composed in 1965 on the 700 year anniversary of Dante Alighieri’s (yes, the Dante responsible for Dante’s Inferno) birth.
Okay, so if you’re not bored enough to have read this far, your powers of deduction should already be telling you that this isn’t an album filled with songs like ‘Epic’. It isn’t even a Mr Bungle record. This is Mike Patton talking in Italian, English and Latin over the musical equivalent of a mental breakdown; think blasts of brass, indiscernible female screams and surging, pulsing electronica. Indebted to Berio’s work, as it is, the album’s libretto drives the narrative, but for anyone who can’t understand the Latin voice (so…err…pretty much everyone then), the music suitably reflects the turmoil, angst and occasional light-hearted nature of the setting. There is nothing to cling onto here; at the four minute mark of ‘Part 1’, the frenzied wails gives way to a tight smatter of drums and seem to break into something sweet and smooth, which is almost immediately discarded. This sense of renewal and loss is repeated across the extent of the record.
Watch a teaser for another one of Mike Patton’s projects – the forthcoming new album from Tomahawk:
Laborintus II makes for a difficult listen with little reward, but it does serve to highlight the immense musical hegemony of a man who for the last thirty years has been consistently aggressive in his involvement in music outside of his audience’s expectations. For a lesser musician than Patton, this recording might sound and feel like posturing, but this is someone who pushes the frontiers of our alternative world, incorporating sounds and styles that have rarely been involved before.
You may not need Laborintus II in your life, but we certainly need more musicians like Mike Patton who are willing to make these difficult musical steps.
Sounds Like: Unhinged episodes, straight from the tomb of absurdity.
Standout Tracks: It’s really not that kind of record.