Mike Patton - The Solitude of Prime Numbers
In my last review for The 405 I disagreed with the late John Peel’s assessment that American producer Boom Bip should be regarded a modern-day Captain Beefheart. And in my head I thought to myself that if any contemporary musician should be compared to Beefheart it should probably Mike Patton. Here is a vocal acrobat who is so much more than the voice behind one of the most creative and interesting popular rock groups in recent times. In fact you get the feeling that Patton regarded Faith No More as something of a side project to the more eclectic but lesser known Mr Bungle. He even wore a Bungle t-shirt in the music video for FNM’s 'Epic'.
Alongside collaborators notably including experimental producer John Zorn, Mike Patton has continued to explore the limits of his musical horizons. Even at the peak of his fame, Mike Patton’s creative heart yearned to break out. In 1996, Patton released an album recorded entirely in hotel rooms on the road with Faith No More. Every sound on Adult Themes For Voice was made using his own, rather impressive, set of vocal chords. It is at once amazing and horrifying. Rather like a Bangkok sex show, the album leaves most people incredulous at the abilities of the human body yet too disturbed to want a repeat performance.
Later, Patton released Pranzo Oltranzista, another avant garde mixture of sounds, textures and unique ideas – another record for the purists.
The full title of this release speaks for itself, Music From The Film and Inspired by the Book The Solitude of Prime Numbers (La Solitudine Dei Numeri Primi). Patton had himself penned much of music for a recent film adaptation and the themes running through the story have underpinned Patton's approach to the composition of the work. The novel, by Italian author Paolo Giordano, tells the story of two individuals, Mattia and Alice, whose lives parallel each other in uncanny ways, like twin prime numbers: both lonely and unique but connected to each other.
This is in many ways one of Paton’s most simplistic releases, although it’s still rich with ideas. Individual instruments dominate one at a time, punching sharp forcible themes with the most basic percussion providing battering each point home. This is indeed an avant-garde release, but not as leftfield as Patton’s other solo records. It’s a disappointment that Patton doesn’t utilise his considerable vocal talents - these solo pieces lack the playful personality and humour that shone in with Faith No More. But with his solo albums, it’s clear that Faith No More and, later, Tomahawk, were mere hobbies.
Purchase and listen
In 2008 Peter Saville emphatically pronounced the album cover dead. Shrinking to fit the screen of an iPod or smartphone, artwork is increasingly measured in pixels rather than inches, easily passed over in a digital age. For Steve Moore and Anthony Paterra, two halves of synth-prog duo Zombi, however, album art provides a telling entry point to the music that waits underneath. [read more]
There's two mindsets about reissues: the cynical one will proclaim that it shows how the pencil-pushing bean counters of the music industry want to play it safe by double dipping on the nostalgia factor. The second mindset (which I seem to subscribe to) is that it might give a second chance to overlooked albums and artists that might have missed their chance in the limelight. [read more]
The Voluntary Butler Scheme is not a government sponsored enterprise to get the unemployed back to work serving cucumber sandwiches and weak tea to the prime ministers' Bullingdon Club alumni. It's really Rob Jones, a one man band from Stourbridge in the UK. [read more]