album review (2016-may issue) : It’s been a busy year for Mike Patton. Between his reunion with Faith No More and his work with the Nevermen, we just can’t seem to go more than a few months before we get more Patton. Frankly, that’s never a bad thing. The singer has mastered the art of mysteriousness—and impressive feat, given his ubiquity these days—while also churning out masterpieces of experimental rock and roll. As diverse as his projects have always been, they’ve always managed to be monuments of composition, an act that belies his bizarre stage and public persona.
As interesting as Patton is as a front man and singer, he takes a bit of a second seat on his latest release, the reunion between him and Norwegian composer John Kaada. It’s been well over a decade since Kaada/Patton’s debut release, Romances, first wowed audiences, but the magic remains unfaded on their latest collaboration, Bacteria Cult.
Kaada has always been a bit of an enigma in the orchestral world. While the money, these days, is in scoring big budget feature length movies, Kaada has grown a cult following (one worthy of Patton himself) by remaining largely outside the realm of cinematic scores, save for a few small European films. Instead, he’s made his mark composing ethereal works of instrumental magic that transcend the conventional styles of modernity. Alternatively grounded and surreal, Kaada weaves a magical spell that hooks you from the deepest, darkest part of your brain.
This makes Kaada/Patton one of the more perfect collaborations in recent history. Both artists bring a knowledge of musical theory that serves to deepen the dreamy nature of the output. Here, Kaada plays Patton almost as an instrument, a single output of sound amidst a full orchestra. Patton’s dreary intonations are weaved within the music becoming a part of the orchestra itself, as opposed to just a front man, adding a layer of complexity to an already complex arrangement.
Sonically, Bacteria Cult feels like the score to a movie that doesn’t exist but that I desperately want to see. The eight song collection flows through movements, suggesting an untold story of incredible interest and awesome scale. Close your eyes and you can almost picture the ephemeral scenery implied by the sound—sweeping landscapes of beautiful horror, a fantastic world grounded in reality. Hints of Masaru Sato and Ennio Morricone punctuate these feelings, as the music alternately suggests western tropes melded with eastern myth.
At all times, however, the music is pure Kaada. It’s a testament to his strength as a composer that Bacteria Cult can be so evocative of so much imagery. There’s a sort of darkness that is threaded throughout each of the album’s tracks—even the lighter, more playful tracks like “Papillon” and “A Burnt Out Case” are suggestive of a hidden danger amidst a wondrous scene, like a disguised demon tricking a young heroine to an impending doom with promises of magic and delight, the daggered teeth hidden behind a friendly smile.
Bacteria Cult is an instrumental delight for fans of complex orchestration. But the uninitiated need not be afraid to take the journey it calls you on. You don’t need to be a scholar of music theory to appreciate the world presented by this collaboration between mad geniuses. Its wonderful evocations are accessible to all without descending into pompous snobbery or complexity for complexity’s sake. Kaada/Patton have produced another monument of modern orchestration that should dispel the notion that chamber music died with Bach.
There are many worlds of wonder and magic to be found within the notes of Bacteria Cult, dark worlds of beauty and magic, where danger lurks for the unwary and every corner may hide the instrument of your demise. But that’s no reason not to take the trip. Just be sure to watch your step and never trust a friendly smile.
James Roberts in Glide Magazine