Review Summary: Idm rebirth.
It could easily be argued that the trajectory of all art is cyclical. Not so much cyclical in that it perpetually returns to a specific point, but progressively cyclical, a snowballing of ideologies and approaches that are absorbed into the rotating sphere of influence that is constantly refreshed, impacted, and expanded upon as it progresses along a linear path. Well, at least it was that way for a very long time, when both memory and artistic expression progressed along a linear path as well.
Art, and more specifically music, now exists in a climate where the figurative snowball of influence has become saturated to the point of collapsing in upon itself, allowing for formless access to ideas and practices that directly challenge the chronological linearity of time as history remembers it. This is the age of information, where access to the wealth of human knowledge and experience is a little less than a few pushes of a button away. As a result, the artistic landscape has become inundated with an infatuation with anachronism, a rather paradoxical clashing of ideas and experiences that perhaps were never supposed to meet. Where this saturation of information could have been met with stubborn opposition in favor of blind progress, it has been almost uniformly welcomed and exploited in ways that are not simply giving the past new life, but synthesizing entirely new narratives from the junk of history.
, patten's fourth full-length and the first to be released by the legendary Warp records, exists directly at the center of this virginal sonic landscape. Throwback and “retro” artists have existed for quite a long time, certainly before it became so easy to access information, but this was more or less a response to the technological limitations of physical media. It was easier to copy a style and get away with formal theft when there was less of a chance of someone hearing the source of inspiration, which is a practice that is slowly being obliterated by information technology. ESTOILE NAIANT
almost seems like a direct response to this perspective, the idea that the past is constant and can only be emulated, not altered. While everything about patten's newest record sounds old, it sounds old in a way that is entirely intangible, almost as if it were plucked out of an alternate history in a timeline that never happened.
is a pulsing, rotating, undulating mess of unintelligible sound bits, indecipherable samples, washed out synth pads, and contradictory rhythmic patterns that pour from the speakers in a deluge of post-modernity. This contextual labyrinth of noise functions on both visceral and cerebral levels, nostalgic and confounding all at once. Whether it's the gate modulated LFO pads on a track like Drift that sound like a pop song you wish you heard on the radio in 1986, or the distant rhythmic pulsing of Pathways punctuated by splashes of eerily familiar vocal samples, ESTOILE NAIANT
succeeds in simultaneously sounding both old and new, a purposeful confounding of the memories that serve as the basis for context. It is a deliberate exploitation of the expressionistic power of sound as a tool for not only invoking memory, but changing it and reimagining it in ways that directly subvert the consistency of time.
It's also interesting to consider that this kind of repurposing of sound has found such a secure home in the world of electronic music, because, other than in reference to itself, electronic music doesn't have a comparatively extensive lineage from which to pull ideas, and what ideas it does derive from are certainly without context. Perhaps that is also why ESTOILE NAIANT
fits so comfortably in the equally insubstantial genre of IDM, if for no other reason than the fact that IDM has never actually had a sound
and can only generally be lumped together by the idea that it is “dance music that you aren't supposed to dance to”. It seems only fitting that a record that purposefully eschews context in favor of the alluring pull of insubstantiality would find a home in a genre that is equally insubstantial in terms of musical cannon.
Conservatism is inherently a self-defeating ideology, and patten's ESTOILE NAIANT
is a confident reminder that even though the past is immutable, it is certainly not perfect in its intangibility. In the interest of not making broad claims that are too general for the scope of their ideological boundaries, it is safe to say that what patten has done with ESTOILE NAIANT
is provide an example by which the standard of reinvention can be measured. Proving that the past is more intimately a part of the present than anyone wishes to admit, ESTOILE NAIANT
is an invigorating, perplexing journey through the post-modern contextual climate of the information age that has synthesized an almost completely new narrative for the future generation of music, one that is both progressive and retrospective all at once.