“I can’t hear my own music. I don’t know what my music is; I don’t know what it sounds like.” So said enigmatic London-based producer patten of his 2011 debut album, GLAQJO XAACSSO, whose keyboard-mashing title reflected not only his bewilderment as to what his work might represent, but also his fascination with codes, connections and process. Not as related to music technology, but to our own, endlessly seething minds.
If that suggests that patten’s records are dry exercises in deconstruction, then nothing could be further from the truth. His debut ignored the reliable comforts of builds, hooks and breakdowns in favor of the giddy thrills afforded by sudden shifts in tempo and tone, unusual texturing and extreme contrasts of expansiveness/confinement. Now, further wind-rush intoxication comes with Estoile Naiant.
It opens with “Gold Arc,” which is driven by irritable hi-hats and a lush, woozy synth loop with a clear MBV influence, before a clatter of confused noise and patten’s own murmuring rains down, almost drowning it out. This trippy, submerge/emerge dynamic carries “Here Always,” too, but “Drift” is absolutely different — rather, it’s an anxious choir of distorted chatter and tiny electronic clippings, blasted into the chilly stratosphere.
Everywhere, expectation is quietly subverted — via the almost subliminal, female R&B vocal snatches dropped into the relentlessly ricocheting sequences of “Pathways,” for example, or by the single fragment of arcade-game noise that spikes “Key Embedded” and the frantic percussive hiss that offsets “Agen”‘s funereal pacing. But for all its unpredictability and strange, cosmic beauty, this world is far from alienating. In fact, it’s as seductive and warmly intimate as a whisper in the ear. Patten may still not know what his music sounds like, but listeners can be in no doubt as to how it feels.