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Album Review: tētēma – Necroscape

The sophomore album by the unorthodox partnership of Mike Patton and Australian composer Anthony Pateras offers a unique blend of avant-garde, electronica and metal to provide an all too perfect soundtrack for these bizarre times we’re living in.

Mike Patton is an immensely talented dude, but anyone familiar with his work across his numerous bands and projects (and there are a lot…) knows there’s a brand of mercurial eccentricity that he brings to the table no matter what endeavour he’s involved in. Some may say it’s a side effect of genius, others might say he’s just on another plane of existence. Necroscape slots in quite nicely between the two ideas and, in partnership with Anthony Pateras, provide a fascinating insight into creative minds unperturbed by artistic convention.

Chaos reigns throughout the thirteen tracks with fleeting moments of tranquil melody ripped away by bursts of rampant beats provided by the very talented Will Guthrie, who evidently thinks that sticking to a set tempo is for suckers. But it’s Pateras’ manipulation of tape loops and analogue synthesisers that provides the base layer to unleash this circus of miscreants through the use of haunting soundscapes and heavily modulated saw waves. Mike Patton acts as the ring leader demonstrating a vocal range seldom heard by one human being, never mind on one body of work. Switching between high and low octaves then unleashing death-metal screams, his work here is completely unpredictable from one minute to the next, but is consistently mesmerising. The final piece of the non-linear puzzle is violinist Erkka Veltheim whose instrument is mostly offered as a layer of distortion where one might normally expect guitar.

A brief offering of traditional structure comes in the form of the hypnotic Wait Til Mornin’ which Pateras describes as “Peter Gunn on methamphetamine with RD Burman as co-pilot, being pursued by Madlib through an early 80s London industrial estate”… There is an unsettling nature to much of the album. For instance lead single Haunted on the Uptake sounds like someone dialled up Broken by Nine Inch Nails to new levels of depravity reminding the listener that sometimes brilliance isn’t pleasant. Although that is the case for the majority of the album, there are a few moments that are a little too left field that leave the listener with a bit of a “wtf” expression – more so than the rest of the material (if that’s even possible…listen and you’ll know!)

Necroscrape is a multi-layered atmospheric odyssey that pushes beyond the boundaries of traditional creativity. Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras have done something that not many musicians dare to do anymore and that is to create art that is totally unique and actually challenges the listener. Yes this album will be an acquired taste and will predominantly appeal to those who believe music is more than just structured sounds. But for anyone who gets the work that has been put in here, they are in for a listening experience unlike any other.

Though not without moments of excessive abandon, overall I implore anyone to listen to the record in full and to not feel enthused. There were moments listening to the record where I felt like I was in some kind of sonic psychosis, and I encourage anyone willing to come forward and partake to hear what I mean. In a way it is the perfect record to parallel the crazy times we currently find ourselves in.

RATING: B

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