Monday, May 2, 2016

Cult status

Romances by John Kaada and Mike Patton is probably my favorite album of all time. I love it enough that it inspired me to script a comic book about it (though the comic book in question was depressing enough that I've yet to finish drawing and inking it). So when the pair announced another collaboration for release in April 2016 (12 years after Romances) I was excited and delighted and ordered it immediately. And then I waited. And waited. And waited.

Ipecac Recordings is a good record company. They have a great stable of artists and the music they put out is always fantastic and beautifully presented. But they seem to sell most directly through Merchaye, which leaves a little something to be desired. I ordered my CD in early February (along with two other albums), thinking that pre-ordering Bacteria Cult meant that I would get the album on its April 1st release date. Wrong! My order didn't even ship until April 5th, by which point I'd contacted Merchaye to see what was going on (I didn't pay for express shipping so I waited until I was sure that the 4-day delivery time wasn't screwing with anything). Thankfully there was a stream available on February 25th so at least I didn't have to wait to hear it until it was finally delivered on the 11th.

So that was the saga of getting the thing, was it worth all of the trouble? Well that depends.

(It doesn't depend on anything for me - it was totally worth it for me and I love it.)

If you like Patton exclusively because of Epic then you probably won't like Bacteria Cult. If you're into Fantomas because of the heavy sound you probably won't like Bacteria Cult. If Mister Bungle is appealing to you mainly because of explicit lyrics and funk-metal bass lines you probably won't like Bacteria Cult. If you like film scores for their ability to tell a coherent story through sound you probably won't like Bacteria Cult. If you like classical music for its relative length and ability to fade into the background you probably won't like Bacteria Cult. If you enjoyed the depth of sound and resonant singing on Romances you may like Bacteria Cult, but I make no promises.

Romances sounded like a broken western, full of vistas of sound and howling voices; Bacteria Cult sounds like a symphony of arachnids, all strings and shrill with whispered vocals and backgrounded by a dissonant hum. It's rich and thick, layered with muddled motifs and unfettered malice. Romances is easy to sink into and to love, but I think Bacteria Cult wants you to hate it. Bacteria Cult is like Copeland for nihilists.

The music doesn't soar, it waddles and wallows; the vocals are almost completely nonverbal (and maybe completely nonverbal - I may be falsely identifying words where there are only screams) and come together in a jumble of cooing, humming, and nonsense that is barely identifiable as human; there are sweeping trumpets undercut by guttural grunts and precise strings drowned in faint electronic echoes.

I love it but there are things I might love more if they were done somewhat differently. It's just like Patton, widely recognized as one of the greatest and most versatile singers in the world, to put out an album full of tracks that you'd be hard-pressed to call songs. I would really have liked it if Bacteria Cult had at least one song with words just so I could feel a little more equal to it - the album is hard to approach since there's no way to know exactly what it's saying. But such is the life of a Patton fan - if Suspended Animation didn't chase you away nothing will. The other thing I'd like is MORE. After twelve years Kaada and Patton put out a brilliant album that has only eight tracks, none of which are over five minutes. There's barely more than half an hour of listening here and I feel a tiny bit cheated. It's not that the album doesn't stand up as a complete piece - it does - but I was hoping for a novel rather than a novella. It's a beautiful story, I wanted to live in it a little longer.

Official music video for Imodium - CW for Incest, Gore, Nudity. NSFW

     - Alli

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