, September 29th, 2011 08:14
1996: Aphex Twin's magical set of weird lullabies and childhood memories, Richard D. James Album comes out. A few months before, he collaborates with pal Mike Paradinas (aka μ-Ziq) and releases Mike & Rich. Sometimes referred to as Expert Knob Twiddlers - a typically adolescent acknowledgement of the supposedly masturbatory aspect of much 'intelligent dance music'- this album by two self-proclaimed 'bedroom bores' makes music out to be literally child's play. The two of them appear on the cover with faces contorted like madly competitive children, each on the edge of a tantrum, but they could equally be mistaken for a pair of too-far-gone ravers, as if the difference between boys-with-toys and bedroom producers has become impossible to make out.
Fast-forward fifteen years: Ford & Lopatin have turned this into an art form (they were even called Games for a while, c'mon), but patten (always lower case, apparently) seems like the proper inheritor of Aphex's crazed, childlike approach to music-making, only he's grown up in the uncontrollable age of the internet and not the placid time of the girl-and-clown test-card. The press release for this elusive London producer's debut (pronounced 'glack-geut-zack-so') cites all sorts of bedroom-bound intelligent dance music from Autechre and Goldie's jungle opus 'Timeless' to Steve Reich but this definitely not 'music for club-drowsy dawns', as Warp's Artificial Intelligence compilation put it - it's too bewildering, too manic, simply too loud. It's prone to mood swings, cuddling up to you with some Boards of Canada-style loveliness one second then frothing at the mouth with overprogrammed intensity the next, with sinister voices low in the mix replicating the fried gobbledygook that runs through your head after too many excesses.
The only pale boy in his bedroom that came to mind here was psychotic Alex in Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, describing the rapturous effects of Beethoven's Ninth (with typical flair) as 'bliss and heaven... gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh!' On standout 'Blush Mosaic' this is precisely the effect patten wants to induce: drooling modems, propulsive chants and skittering percussion, lost in luminous chaos. Bright and riotous, bliss and heaven indeed, it's soon followed by the feverish slab of paranoid house, 'Fire Dream', its evil twin. These peaks aside, there's much that never really works. There's something exhausting about this manic exuberance, too. All rush and almost no plateau, it's so fidgety and full of swarming textures that it wears you down. Take the opener 'Ice', which sounds like a bloated mix of hip-hop, shoegaze and radio noise blaring in a sauna. At best, this is the sonic equivalent to the 'Come To Daddy' video, with patten playing one of those berserk Aphex children: demented, exhilarating, a bit scary and pretty silly all at once.