PATTON & KAADA - Romances

By Emilie - 11/30/2004

Romances is one of many collaborative albums by Mike Patton. I know that not many Patton fans at CJLO liked his collaboration with Björk on her most recent album Medulla, but please try and check out this CD anyway. The collaboration is with John Kaada, a Norwegian musician who has been very prolific in the movie soundtrack world. This gives the album a very dark cinematic mood, perfect for lazy depressing evenings. The album really manages to immerse you within a world, with a mix of old-fashioned and haunting sounds. This immersion is also mostly achieved thanks to the different musical themes that come and go throughout the album. This makes for an excellent continuous listen, rather than just simply a gathering of good songs. The themes are also tremendously melodic, staying in your head hours at a time, as you hum it to yourself all day.

There is one stand-out track, “Seule” (yes, all the songs have French titles), which has an emotional heaviness that makes you want to slash your wrists. “I’m asleep… goodnight world…” This song, even though depressive and dark like the others, stands out due to more lyrics and a more standard type of song structure. Indeed, one of the strengths of the album, like many works by Mike Patton, is that the voice is more of an instrument rather than a tool for the delivery of lyrics. These “mmmmms” and “aaaaaahs” work even better in the more atmospheric parts of the album. He does not get into crazy “pootakata ka taka takatak”’s à la Mr.Bungle, but still comes up with interesting and original wordless melodies.

The album also manages to effectively use xylophone solos in quiet parts in an eerie and creepy way, instead of making it cheesy or over the top. The album might seem to go on forever in some atmospheric movements, especially the 11-minute song “Aubade”, but I personally think that those little touches like xylophone riffs or vocal solos manage to pick it up and keep the interest going where others might fail completely. Also, the album is not a COMPLETE depressive anthem from start to finish. There are some strategically positioned happier harmonica and vocals spread throughout the album, mostly in “Viens, les gazons sont verts”, a breather before “Seule”. Even though it has similar creepy sounds to the other songs, the melodies are brighter and a bit more energetic, but don’t worry, it is still *a little* depressive.

Romances, with its dark atmospheric screams combined with its “twee” indie-rock melodic xylophone, could be of interest to both metal heads and indie-rock lovers. Pop it in late in the evening and you just might be converted.