Like Boards of Canada in fast forward or Aphex Twin if he paired up with a spoken word artist, being trapped alone with Ψ (Psi) would require you to find a psychiatrist fast; as an escape, though, it is thrilling.
How much wonky do you like in your IDM? If the answer is a lot, or some, or as much as you can get, then you will dig the new Patten record, Ψ, which follows 2014's ESTOILE NAIANT. A universe all to itself, the LP -- whose title is pronounced “psi", like the Greek symbol -- finds the grandchildren of Richard James creating rich places to explore and confusingly endearing moments to hide in.
The opening track, “Locq", demands you enter its universe. Its oddly calm synths with shrill lead lines are as confusing as they are inviting. Then the second track, "Sonne", kicks in with a uniquely memorable drum pattern; it's an easy hook to grab onto and it succeeds in its goals of stirring you and scaring you. The strongest track of the bunch is “The Opaque"; it's the song you would want on a mixtape if people still did that anymore, as it encapsulates the motif and feel of Patten better than any other song on the record. In fact, it feels like the whole record consolidated into three hyperactive minutes. The synths are the buzziest and the speaking track is the loudest (and weirdest, by far) in the mix. Elsewhere, “Dialer" starts out with a beat leaning towards hip-hop; specifically, the window crash snares put an exclamation point on what would be a perfect beat for MF Doom.
As Ψ drifts and dances, moments of bass, IDM, glitch, and Wonky abound. Patten deals in the kind of sci-fi IDM (or should we call it Sci-FiDM) that's textured and full-bodied. The record won't reveal itself on the first listen. Instead, it will sound obtuse, with its calm synths, rushing glitch patterns, strident synth leads, and metallic percussion all running together. However, the intricacies of the songs start to shine around the third or fourth play through.
Since none of the spoken word portions are audible, it can initially feel like they are taking away from the feel and groove of the music. Once your mental spaceship lands on the planet Ψ, though, the voices add to the universe, as if you are caught in Stanley Kubrick's Jupiter mission but HAL 9000 never got defeated. Like Boards of Canada in fast forward or Aphex Twin if he paired up with a spoken word artist, being trapped alone with Ψ would require you to find a psychiatrist fast; as an escape, though, it is thrilling.
Like all the best electronic artists, Patten is secretive and cryptic, choosing to run a creative collective called 555-5555 whose purpose is a mystery. In this way, the duo follows the path of Richard James or Air with their image: hidden, but just enough information to keep you wanting more. We aren't talking like a Burial or Daft Punk level here, but still, this image fits the music well.
Overall, Ψ will satisfy you if you're a fan of the genre (especially if you're waiting for the next AFX or Squarepusher release). This is a great record to tide you over, and you just might find a new favorite mind-melter duo. They really hit the IDM nail on the head.