Wednesday, July 09, 2008
A Perfect Place
Rating: 9.25 out of 10
Crafting soundtracks is nothing new for Mr. Mike Patton. Aside from the fact that the guy can belt out any note with enviable ease, Patton is also a certified noisemaker, gifted with the sort of throat that can withstand any torture he can, (and has), delivered upon it. Patton, by himself, is an instrument. So, creating mood? Shouldn’t be a problem.
With his thematically unusual free-metal concept, Fantômas, soundtracks have basically been Patton’s focus. From their self-titled collection of screamer sci-fi snippets, to their brilliantly reworked film score repertoire with Director’s Cut; the eerie and lengthy surgical nightmare, Delirium Cordia, and then a reinterpretation of Carl Stalling’s world of cartoon music with Suspended Animation, it really seems like Patton was gearing up for something like A Perfect Place to come along, an opportune time to allot himself among the Ennio Morricone’s of the world.
A Perfect Place is a very short film directed by Derrick Scocchera. The movie itself runs at a little less than a half-hour and functions mostly as a Jim Jarmusch-inspired noir snippet of a somewhat catastrophic evening in the life of two poker buddies. Patton, fortunately for the listener, outdoes the movie, running with the noir theme in a very odd, though smart, mishmash of modernized swing jazz, horn-heavy villainy and nostalgic serial-based cliffhanger and chase compositions. Patton goes out of his way to craft something old that sounds new: anachronistic in a way, but existing only in terms of its characters’ reality. It could be called “dimensional,” maybe. It’s as if the Beats and 40s Big Band merged with Down By Law or Mystery Train. A Perfect Place is for the enigmatic night crawlers: coffee-guzzlers of the late morning variety, insomniacs on lonely stretches of road, the preoccupied minds overwhelmed by stories too strange to comprehend. Dramatic explanation, but I think it’s accurate.
Patton ably intertwines his main arrangements throughout the soundtrack: “Main Title” and “A Perfect Place.” “A Perfect Twist (Vocal)” and “A Little Poker Tomorrow Night?” both concoct jived and suspenseful variations to the theme, providing Patton some opportunities to sing a bit. From mysterious (“Seriously Disturbed”) to exciting (“Batucada”) to as Rat Pack as any lounge lizard wants to be (“Swinging The Body”), A Perfect Place embodies the whole noir aspects of its intended storyline and does a great job of conveying mood and atmosphere. The movie itself almost seems like an afterthought next to the score, which feels like it’s telling its own story. The two tracks of pure radio static (“Car Radio (AM)” and “Car Radio (FM)”) even speak volumes.
“A Dream Of Roses,” Patton’s eerie homage to the big band 78, is perfectly buried in phonograph static with twinkling notes ringing clearly at points. It takes interesting liberties with the formula and winds up being more than just an amusing rehash. “Il Cupo Dolore,” also a phonograph-mixed piece of reminiscence, has Patton acting as tenor, belting out operatic high notes like some alterna-Pavoratti.
The only time A Perfect Place loses focus is with “Catholic Tribe,” an intersecting array of tribal percussion mixed with church organ. It’s an interesting track, but way out of left field in terms of the rest of the album.
Probably the closest we’vel come to a modern-day composer, at least in terms of the alterna set, Mike Patton is an ever-evolving and all-encompassing presence. A Perfect Place, which he completely composed and mostly played, is ANOTHER testament to how far he wants to go and how he refuses to be limited to any single genre. I always look forward to hearing what he does, and I can’t wait to hear what he does next.
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