While many music lovers have spent fall buzzing about the first new Faith No More album in 18 years arriving in 2015, another noteworthy project of FNM’s Mike Patton has simmered below the radar of the mainstream music community. Tētēma, the joint project of the prolific, multitalented vocalist and Australian composer Anthony Pateras. With Geocidal, they dismantle common notions of “place” (both geographic and of social construct), and use its destruction as a springboard into an alternate universe where identities are rebuilt and seemingly anything can happen. Recorded across several continents with an ensemble of accomplished musicians, the duo sculpt industrial noise, electronic beats, jazz, neoclassical, field sounds, tribal rhythms and even some quasi-traditional pop into an amorphous beast that is unlike anything else.
The borderless world of Geocidal is mysterious, exciting and absurdist, and visitors are swiftly welcomed in a baptism of fire, with the live sounds of its recordings heightening its visceral textures. Anticipation mounts in the atmospheric opener “Invocation of the Swarm” before plunging into the apocalyptic scorcher “Pure War,” a song marked by the raucous drumming of Will Guthrie and Patton’s machine gun-like vocal terror. From there, the record wavers from sonic dystopias replete with violence, rage and profound isolation, to jungles and deserts that easily seduce adventurous and inquisitive listeners. In the end, though, tētēma’s planet is anything but utopic, climaxing with the suspense-laden “Kid’s Got a Bomb,” before flickering out through the despairing interlude of “Emptiness of Ecstasy,” and finally finding serenity by leaving the physical plane entirely with “Death in Tangiers.” Is this finale happy or sad? It’s hard to tell, but what is for sure is that while Geocidal won’t win over every listener, those who do dig in will find it strangely addictive.