It’s only logical that Mike Patton would eventually move on to scoring films. In fact, with the release of his first ever movie soundtrack, the first thought that pops into our heads is, “Dude, what took you so long?” The fact is, Patton’s highly eclectic range of music has always had a cinematic feel to it, from the genre-hopping genius of Mr. Bungle, to the dark, extreme bombast of Fantomas, to experimental outfit Tomahawk… hell, to any of the dozens upon dozens of musical projects he’s helmed since the early 1990s. Whether it’s grandiosity, ambience, pop, or full-on bombast, his compositions have always seemed like they’d fit perfectly as a musical accompaniment to a visual image.
In addition, his great label, Ipecac Recordings, has put out some phenomenal instrumental music by such acts as Trevor Dunn, Bohren & der Club of Gore, Eyvind Kang, and most impressively, the legendary Ennio Morricone (whose Ipecac compilation Crime & Dissonance is revelatory), so it’s easy to sense that Patton has always been drawn to such music. And when his longtime friend Derrick Scocchera came a-kockin’, asking him to provide not only the score, but the complete soundtrack to his short film A Perfect Place, not only did Patton jump at the chance, but as it turns out, he’s taken to the medium like a duck to water.
Patton will be the first to tell you that his music tends to verge on coming off as unfocused, and this test of his own musical self-discipline is passed with flying colors. In fact, A Perfect Place ranks among his best work of the past decade, primarily because he’s been forced to show more restraint than he ever has in the past. He’s not the boss, Scocchera is, and by allowing himself to complement his buddy’s own art, instead of flying off the handle as he tends to do, the end result is remarkable. Surprisingly so, in fact.
With a simple melodic hook serving as a recurring theme throughout the 35-minute CD, a descending series of notes that sound lifted from a 1940s film noir flick, Patton delivers variation upon fascinating variation, with the majority of the album (save for the odd percussion here and there) recorded solo, using MIDI samples. The brassy flourishes of “Main Title” echo the Bond themes of John Barry with a rambunctious Latin big band twist. “A Perfect Place” is murkily beautiful, Angelo Badalamenti gone goth, the reprised melody, now whistled, projecting an unsettling, nocturnal vibe. Not dissimilar to his work with Mr. Bungle, “A Perfect Twist” deliriously mimics the California pop of the 1960s, with Patton’s playful vocals, true to form, coming off as more sadistic than warm. “A Little Poker Tomorrow Night?”, meanwhile, echoes the more adventurous, jazzy side of Morricone that we heard on Crime & Dissonance, while “Batucada” further explores the Latin sounds heard in “Main Title”. And just to show us he’s still capable of making jaws hit the floor, Patton tosses a couple of big-time curve balls our way, first with the uproarious Rudi Vallee send-up “Dream of Roses”, and then the Caruso-style Italian aria “Cupo Dolore”, both made to sound like they’re playing on an old Victrola, the two disparate styles sold brilliantly by the insanely versatile Patton.
Sold as a special edition two-disc CD/DVD, A Perfect Place comes with both Patton’s soundtrack and Scocchera’s short film. As for the latter, it’s very well done, a droll little black comedy about two friends trying to dispose of a body, slickly shot in monochrome, and starring character actor Mark Boone Junior and horror flick fave Bill Moseley. Scocchera’s short indie film nails the noir look so well that it can’t be too long before he moves on to a bigger project, but of the two discs, it’s Patton’s score that turns out to be especially revelatory. By staying thematically consistent yet never passing up an opportunity to go nuts (just a little bit), he’s clearly having a ridiculous amount of fun creating an instrumental backdrop for Scocchera’s film, and pulls it off with such aplomb that no one will be surprised when another director, who’s heard this fabulous soundtrack, offers another challenge. And it’s a safe bet that Patton will ace that one, too.