2004, thirteen years ago John Kaada and Mike Patton released Romances, their first collaborative album via Ipecac.
The record came as the result of Mike Patton's discovering the Norwegian composer's music during a trip to Europe. Ipecac soon after released Kaada's 2003 debut, Thank You For Giving Me Your Valuable Time. The overall sound of the album was inspired by Gustav Mahler, Frédéric Chopin, Johannes Brahms and Franz Liszt with soundtrack elements. The album's track titles were taken from 18th century French songs.
Mike Patton and fellow Ipecac resident Kaada’s collaboration Romances dwells in the twilight zone where spooky and seductive meet. Both artists’ work reveals a love of cinematic music: Kaada is an award-winning film music composer in his native Norway, and Patton has paid homage to great horror scores on Fantômas’ Director’s Cut. Romances is just as filmic than that album — actually, the affection for the spooky, evocative and arranged is the biggest romance going on here — but it is less noisy and intense, and more obviously melodic and playful, than Director’s Cut. “Invocation”‘s creepily whimsical melody and choral voices, for example, recall Danny Elfman’s work more than Fantômas’ grislier sound. Patton’s fondness for over-the-top theatricality tends to dominate Romances, particularly on the eight-minute “Aubade,” where his vocals span ghostly choral passages, Tasmanian devil-like grunts and growls and ululating that sounds like an unusually tuneful bleating goat. Like nearly all of Patton’s collaborations, the album makes the most of his voice, and he’s shown over and over again that he can adapt his singing to almost any setting (and vice versa). The torchy “Seule” and “Pitie Pour Mes Larmes” feature some of the most straightforward crooning he’s done in a while, but within the album’s context, lyrics like “You came to take my heart from me” have more to do with grand guignol than lingering glances and meaningful sighs, and the song’s richly layered harmonies once again emphasize the album’s mingling of sensual and eerie. Kaada’s part of the collaboration shows up in Romances’ lush, playful sound and eclectic influences: “L’Absent,” in another incarnation, could be a jaunty French folk melody, while “Viens, Les Gazons Sont Verts” mixes spaghetti western theme music with exotica. And, though it sounds pretty different than Thank You for Giving Me Your Valuable Time’s fusion of electronica and ’60s soul, “Pensees Des Morts” — a playfully eerie mutation of rattling percussion and an oddly buoyant melody — will appeal to fans of Kaada’s collage aesthetic. Eastern European music, cabaret, lounge and classic horror movie-music instruments like organs, theremin and harp all get their due and go a long way towards Romances’ journey from sentimental to creepy and back again. The album is immensely entertaining, not just for Patton and Kaada fans, but for anyone looking for a soundtrack to their own romantically macabre thoughts.
Exclaim! | 2005
Mike Patton is many things (madman, innovator, annoying, brilliant) but you can say this for him: he's never boring. And he seldom, if ever, repeats himself. His team up with Norway's Kaada doesn't push to the extremes of either the metallic mayhem or ambient hostility of Fantômas, nor is it as bizarre or as pop as Mr. Bungle's cannon, but it does reference parts of much of Patton's past work. Romances is for the most part a mellow, melodic, restrained affair for both participants, featuring laidback, near-folk, almost soundtrack-derived songs complemented by Patton's incredible ability to sing, croon or hit any style or mood presented to him. Occasionally it breaks into its ominous moments (naturally), derailing the easy listening train, but it never goes too far. It may be an exercise in restraint for both involved, but while it never overwhelms, it does engage, soothe and torment, holding you close while whispering disturbing nothings into your ear.
By now you must have heard the news of the official break-up of Bay Area metal legends Mr. Bungle. More than a few of you may be crying yourselves to sleep at night clutching your faithful copies of “Disco Volante,” cursing Mike Patton for dissolving the band who brought you the soundtrack to your wicked youth. But fear not boys and girls, for the intrepid leader of the Ipecac crew has compacted the work of the sextet of musicians who comprised the Bungle sound into a handy dandy collaboration between himself and Norwegian sonic collagist John Kaada. On “Romances,” this newly baptized duo gives Patton’s long-delayed Peeping Tom project with Dan the Automator a good run for its money by manifesting a collusion of samples and voice that utilizes everything from Esquivel to Phil Spector to Chopin to 19th century French pop. Kaada, still burning hot off the critical acclaim awarded his 2003 debut album, “Thank You for Giving Me Your Valuable Time,” astounds here, pushing his art beyond the SP1200 to incorporate a bevy of live instruments (steel guitar, drums and bass clarinet) into his already dense groove theory. Meanwhile Patton, last heard in a dream alliance with Bjork on her new “Medulla” album, hasn’t sounded this smooth since Lovage, proving once again why he is one of the most crucial crooners in modern music. The end result comes off like the proper follow-up to Mr. Bungle’s 1999 swan song, “California,” in terms of its pure intricacy and measure, and that should give grieving fans something to smile about once again.
It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Mike Patton’s idea of romance is a little different from the norm. Along with Norwegian composer John Kaada, he’s created this “seductive” album that is a decidedly more sinister kiss—think vampires in velvet capes as opposed to a candlelit dinner. Much of the credit goes to Kaada, who follows up his mind-bending samplicious 2003 debut masterpiece with an even more twisted take on hillbilly harmonicas, cartoon sound effects and sultry orchestration. This is what happens when the boys who pulled on a girl’s pigtails to get her attention actually grow up, get smart and fall in love. Patton, ever the evil genius, reminds everyone that there’s a strong and talented voice behind the madness, and then, once you’re sold, proceeds to run around the room whispering gibberish in your ears and charming your pants off. Romances is certainly a difficult starting point for appreciating either artist, but it’s also the sound of two artists very much at home in a salacious affair. With Kaada willing to drop the funk every now and then, and Patton apparently going so far as to sing what sounds like the chorus to Simon And Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” the album is hard to ignore and demands closer inspection with headphones. Doing so reveals Romances as a complicated labor of (and about) love.