08 December 2014
by Ruth Booth
Attaching the name “Mike Patton” to a project can make a lot of us lose most, if not all critical faculties about music. And when it comes to stepping out of our comfort zones, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. tētēma is the latest project from avant-garde composer Anthony Pateras – and their first output, Geocidal, a heady hyper-future blend of earth-conscious electronica and analogue sound. Patton serves as human instrument – but one that doesn’t steal the scene as much as you’d expect.
Instead, his vocals take a percussive (and melodic) seat alongside electronica and more classical instrumentation. An apposite blend of the organic and the mechanized, these three elements contrast, combine, intertwine, in sonic explorations that evoke the relationships between human beings, technology, and the planet, on varying scales. ‘Sushiman’’s lines of electronic and traditional percussion speak of parallels between ancient and modern digital communication. Elsewhere, vast swathes of often geological time are compressed into stuttering minutes of hum and glottal stops, giving rise to two of the album’s most profound moments: Firstly, in ‘Pure War’, where the history of conflict is reduced to an exchange of rapid-fire screams and death rattles; and secondly, in ’Invocation of the Swarm’, where the ritualistic humming, drums and bell stops birth the revelation that God is a typewriter.
So this isn’t just a clever name – yet Geocidal doesn’t feel like a mere weapon to bludgeon a message into you. Okay, at times it’s a little heavy-handed – ‘3-2-1 Civilisation”s “you… us, them” refrain, for example – but it’s hardly preachy. By embracing such eclectic elements as alt rock, suspenseful thriller soundtracks, and skewed Ibiza nightclub tours, sometimes Geocidal seems built as much to shake your arse as your brain pan.
In many respects, Geocidal is rather a commercial record for Pateras. The pounding warped bass of ‘Kid Has Got The Bomb‘ would slide right in to most Tomahawk records – and that’s not just down to Patton’s significant contribution. Geocidal feels more built with Patton than around him, and so free of any of the baggage that goes with that – a sign of great craft on both sides, considering Patton’s distinctive tones. As a result, Geocidal remains free to be judged on its own merits, as a deceptively ambitious exploration of human-Earth relationship, if not quite a world-beater.
Sounds Like: Tomahawk, Autechre, Aphex Twin, Avalanches
Standout Tracks: Kid Has Got The Bomb, Invocation Of The Swarm, 3-2-1 Civilisation