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Nov032011

Patten - Glaqjo Xaacsso

No Pain in Pop

 If you wanted to stretch a point, you could blame Phil Spector. But if it hadn’t been him then it would’ve been somebody else and anyway that’s only a part of it.

Whoever flicked the switch, somewhere along the line big, reverberant, multi-dubbed productions which saturate the acoustic space to bursting point have become an enduring feature of the popular music unconscious. Along the way, this logic intertwines with a retrogressive lo fi aesthetic, perhaps recalling the fact that Spector’s wall of sound technique was engineered for optimum performance on poor quality radio, but certainly tapping into a kind of aural nostalgia that, whether manufactured or genuine, has become common currency. It is on top of and against this lineage thatwe find patten’s GLAQJO XAACSO.

Album opener “Ice” drenches the spectrum with compressed pads, synth squeals, buried vocals andlop-sided bursts of overdriven snare. It’s familiar territory, birthed on a journey from shoegaze to chillwave, Seefeel to Crystal Castles and Animal Collective via Boards of Canada, early Chris Clark andActress, passing through all things hypnagogic, hauntologic and hipstamatic along the way. The dadahaze of the album’s artwork and the looming promise of track titles like “a.m./soft focus”, “Blushmosaic” and “Fire Dream” do little to shrug off such associations and, accordingly, this is a mood that prevails throughout. Second track “Crown 8vo” forms a coda of sorts, concluding a pedestrian opening that struggles to assert a strong sense of purpose.

There’s no doubting the art of patten’s construction: multi-layered percussion tracks compete with angular synth lines purloined from Escher’s sketchbook; semi-sung vocals emerge briefly from chromatic clouds. The swirling density can be a suffocating affair. When it lifts its head out of themire, GLAQJO finds a coherent and more striking direction. It is at its strongest when the latent, clattering influence of Chicago is brought to the fore, as on “Blush Mosaic”, where a woozy backdrop is brought to life by a driving open hi hat, and “Fire Dream”, which could very well have come fromthe minds of Omar S or Kyle Hall, if it weren’t quite so spasmic.

The four track sequence from “& Our Wild Paths Intersect” to “Out the Coast” are the most lucid statement of the patten mission objective, by turns soaring, pulsating and abstruse. “Plurals”,meanwhile, is the most idiosyncratic of the collection – a clipped chordal loop suddenly making way for a pitch bent melodic solo that offers the barest moment of respite, before building to a ricketyand mournful finale.

Though the twelve tracks amount to barely forty minutes, it can be a long trawl, tiring the ears withtheir intricate viscosity. With its wash of reverb and swampy production listening can feel a littlelike drowning and the album suffers from a lingering air of stagnation. On the other hand, again like drowning, the lack of oxygen also brings gasps of euphoria. Through the clouds of saturation and degradation shine glimmers of a far more urgent and necessary album, one which is yet to come.

Toby Bennett

@tgpb85

Reader Comments (1)

The most "on the money" review of this yet I think....

November 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJean Michel Genre

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