Review : Mike Patton - Laborintus II ft. Ictus Ensemble
PopmattersDo you know what’s an important task for music criticism in the early 21st century? Getting to grips with the relationship between classical music and popular music, that’s what. It’s important to appreciate that, these days, the boundary between the two forms is rather porous – it’s totally acceptable for symphony orchestras to lend their services to a diverse range of acts, from heavy metal to Detroit techno, and there’s a wide range of post-classical music that blurs the lines between modernist minimalism and more traditional forms with ambient and electronic touches. Basically, we need to take all the talk of classical music’s “elitism” and all the postmodern talk of the (no doubt, long gone) emancipatory potential of pop music off the table. Then again, that raises the issue of our use of language when we start talking about aesthetics in a non-academic setting – we need to ask how we can talk about one form of music in the context of the other without having to do, y’know, musicology.
The presence of Mike Patton on Laborintus II provides us with just such an opportunity. His musical ambitions have always transcended the limitations of pop even if he himself is a rock star of sorts, and he’s gone from fronting metal bands to creating avant-metal reinterpretations of film soundtracks to collaborating with weird beard jazz guy John Zorn. On Laborintus II, Patton collaborates with Belgian Dadaist classical bunch the Ictus Ensemble. The record itself is a re-wiring of Luciano Berio’s composition from back in 1965, which is itself based on the poetry of Communist Dante scholar Edoardo Sanguineti. It’s essentially a mad piece of musical theatre, and it might just turn out that Laborintus II is the strangest off-off Broadway production ever devised – a timely take on Sanguineti’s critique of the commodification of everything in the whole wide world....full text
ThrashhitsIt really is saying something if you have to check Mike Patton against the eccentricity scale to see if he’s wandered past “manically kooky” and into the realms of “wobble custard emu”. This is a man who’s partially responsible for Faith No More following up The Real Thing with Angle Dust - an album as hooky as it is strange. It captures the eternally contrarian attitude of a man who had the world within his grasp, and quite happily let it slip through his fingers. Yes, I think it’s safe to say that Mike Patton is a man quite happy to spend every minute of every day defying the world’s expectations.
It should therefore come as no surprise that Patton has taken another left turn, in the form of an album featuring a reworking of Luciano Berio’s Laborintus II, alongside the Brussels-based Ictus Ensemble. The recording details a moment in 2010 when Patton joined the orchestra to pay tribute to Berio’s seminal work. For the uninitiated (of whose ranks this writer was a member prior to reading about the composer five minutes ago), Luciano Berio was an Italian composer who became famous for his use of jazz-infused-classical-pseudo-electronic music. Laborintus II in particular follows this wacky musical vein, and was composed in 1965 on the 700 year anniversary of Dante Alighieri’s (yes, the Dante responsible for Dante’s Inferno) birth.
Okay, so if you’re not bored enough to have read this far, your powers of deduction should already be telling you that this isn’t an album filled with songs like ‘Epic’. It isn’t even a Mr Bungle record. This is Mike Patton talking in Italian, English and Latin over the musical equivalent of a mental breakdown; think blasts of brass, indiscernible female screams and surging, pulsing electronica. Indebted to Berio’s work, as it is, the album’s libretto drives the narrative, but for anyone who can’t understand the Latin voice (so…err…pretty much everyone then), the music suitably reflects the turmoil, angst and occasional light-hearted nature of the setting. There is nothing to cling onto here; at the four minute mark of ‘Part 1′, the frenzied wails gives way to a tight smatter of drums and seem to break into something sweet and smooth, which is almost immediately discarded. This sense of renewal and loss is repeated across the extent of the record....full text
TheskinnyMike Patton’s public love affair with Italian music continues apace with a fine performance of this seminal avant garde work. Ostensibly written to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Dante’s birth, the piece plays out like an elegant maelstrom of opera, free jazz, literary reference and experimental electronics.
Patton’s Italian language narration is a pleasure and finds the inimitable vocalist endeavoring to get his money’s worth from every last syllable – but it’s really the Ictus ensemble and the Dutch Chamber Choir who do most of the heavy lifting, providing a breathtakingly dynamic range of instrumentation together with vocals that range from sinister whispers to aggressively barked chunks of text.
The recording itself is exceptionally clear considering how crowded the live mix gets and the performance as a whole certainly stives towards fulfilling Berio’s own assertion that such experimental work should serve as “a laboratory reduced to the dimensions of performance....full text
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