Mike Patton, one of the most intriguing, interesting, talented and downright busiest singers on this planet releases a new album. Not content with running his own record label, releasing and touring Faith No More’s comeback album Sol Invictus and the Nevermen album release in January, here we find Patton re-teaming with Norwegian composer John Kaada and the Stavanger Symphony Orchchestra for their new album Bacteria Cult, the next instalment of their orchestral, cinematic collaboration – the first one being their 2004 release Romances.
Kaada has said that this music “dwells in The Twilight Zone where spooky and seductive meet,” and who are we to argue. The evidence is there. It’s lush, cinematic, glorious, menacing, unsettling….it’s hard to put your finger on it. Patton said that they wanted to branch out and try different things on this album and that’s what they have done. The music on show is very emotive… It surges and swells, it bottoms out and builds perfectly and that’s just the first track ‘Red Rainbow’. Patton supplies a vast range of vocal techniques throughout this album but no words. For better or worse, this is a controlled Mike Patton, taking a determined step back and only seeking to complement everything else.
By track two ‘Black Albino’ we are firmly in Morricone territory. But it’s done so well it doesn’t feel like a pastiche. It’s evocative and uplifting yet tinged with melancholy like so much of Morricone’s work. It’s grandiose too and as Patton has shown in the past he is never one to shy away from grandiose, here supplying vocals which only add to the atmosphere and the feeling generated by this track. If there was a video accompaniment, I think I have already created it in my mind such is the power of the imagery evinced by this particular piece of music.
In ‘Papillon’ the Patton is strong, with it’s Bacharachesque orchestral pads and Mr Bungle like frivolity and fondness for layered harmonies catching the ear at first but fading away shortly after that. It promises a lot but ultimately fizzles out. This happens again on different tracks and I’m not sure why.
It could be because the tracks are not developed enough or it could be because of Patton’s mere presence that we expect more. We have heard him do more in the past (sometimes too much) in whatever guise it may be, but this time there is not enough Patton on show here. He is on record as saying that his vocal passages practically sang themselves. You would be hard-pressed to disagree with him. His vocals tend to provide simple counter melody or harmonise with string lines. It’s good but there is room for so much more – he has shown it in the past.
Kaada & Patton set out to make a follow up album to Romances and they can’t be faulted. The music they make is as described above and, again, at times it can’t be faulted. However, I can’t help but think that these songs and arrangements could have been transformed and elevated if we had a more generous helping of Patton, maybe even singing some accompanying words here and there. But for now we have this and who knows.. by the time you read this he may well have released another album.