“Metallic, gleaming, volatile, cybernetic but kind of emo.”
London-based duo patten returned to Warp in September with Ψ, the follow-up to 2014’s blistering LP ESTOILE NAIANT. Pronounced “Psi” – a Greek symbol with hallucinatory meanings – Ψ holds 12 pristine pieces of nebulous electronica that meld industrial, grime, footwork and techno with decidedly modern pop sensibilities.
With ambiguous and shifting line-ups in the past, patten emerge as the duo of ‘D’ and ‘A’ on this album, where they explore “the worlds of deep pre-linguistic emotion and experience across all possible media,” whether through their immersive AV live show, stunning CG artwork, or accompanying music videos.
Ψ is a beguiling listen – heavily processed and intricately layered, it shifts in sound and sentiment across 40 minutes, yet feels staunchly coherent. For some deeper insight, D and A have delved into the meanings, memories and processes behind each track – offering stories of road-testing tracks in the car, to their stripped back approach to writing lyrics and the influence of everyday life. Stream the album in full below and read on for their in-depth commentary.
Ψ is out now on Warp. Order it here.
Hearing this always reminds us of bombing it down a motorway in late summer 2015, sun blazing and an early mix of ‘Locq’ blaring out the stereo of a rented car. We were driving on the way to play Baleapop Festival to test the beginnings of our current phase of live setup. So much has happened since then and it’s funny to think back now how many tiny details have shifted in all that time. When we posted the ‘Sonne’ video, someone commented “Car testing the mix”… they’re so right.
This was the first single to run from the LP. It was amazing working with Matilda Finn on the video for this. Right from the start of us talking through ideas, she somehow managed to totally enter into our world, and started generating ideas and images that felt so close to where we were coming from with it. Because it’s all shot at night, we were limited to dark hours – so fully nocturnal for a bit. It was fairly brutal, but worth it for sure. A really incredible piece that fully captures the trippy motion of the track.
This one’s kind of a machine-like thing to us – a sort of object or environment. Metallic, gleaming, volatile, cybernetic but kind of emo. Those melodies are really aching. There’s an Avengers scene where this A.I. called The Vision comes to life, freaks out and then comes to terms with its own existence – all in under a minute. Well, it’s a bit like that moment. That somehow feels really close… when this A.I. is just looking out through the glass of this skyscraper, focusing on the reflections and the expanse of the city below. There’s something that comes back a lot in our music about trying to give form to things that are hard to pin down, and this is a good example. You know when outdoor audio is suddenly overtaken by the sound system of a passing car with copious woofers in the trunk? Well we like to imagine a world where you hear this coming out of there.
4. Used 2 b
A lot of the lyrics to these songs are actually pretty direct and straightforward, though approached from an angle to give a bit more space. We love the craft of writing songs but also want to keep this stream-of-consciousness-feel to it. We’re drawn to that in other music too; Pixies, Mark E Smith, My Bloody Valentine or Syd Barrett – really direct but from a slight angle. A lot of the songs on Ψ talk about time passing and how fleeting life is, but in an uplifting way, like, “let’s do this thing”? “Those streets rush are way too strong… Our cheeks flushed though now they’re gone… Don’t wait too long”. We put all the lyrics out there on the physical release and our site.
5. True hold
Across this whole album we’ve been experimenting with really stripping things back – sonically, track lengths, economy with words and iconography. The writing process for ‘True hold’ actually started with the string section. It was from a long late night improvisation that formed the rough sketch. No click track or BPM, just free open playing – finding ways to suggest changing emotional states with ambiguous chord changes. So where often you’ve got a minor key to feel like a sad song and major to do the inverse, some of the music we both find the most affecting plays around with that to trigger these more “realistic”, nuanced feelings. HD. We’re into those weird spaces you can reach in music. “Fault lines and you’ll hear the smoke collaged against the yellow, True hold”.
We’ve always been drawn to the harpsichord and what you can do with these runs of notes and slightly dissonant, longing chords. ‘Pixação’ is one of the shortest tracks on the album, but was originally a ten minute experiment with that same idea of shifting emotions. Trying to create a melodic heat haze, but also crystal clear… like being really drunk on very pure vodka. It went through a lot of micro editing, melodically, and then later became this sort-of Murdered-Out Sci-Fi Baroque thing. It’s always strange to look back at the process and all its twists and turns. We keep the writing approach really open so that we might find these unpredictable collisions.
We moved studios from the middle of Hackney down to the outskirts of south east London early last year and it’s very inspiring out here on the edge of things. London’s all insane right now but renting space south of the river is way cheaper than the east. We now have a small recording setup at HQ so we can work on things and make noise whenever, then five minutes walk away is a sort of rock-focused rehearsal studio that we use to test out live show stuff. There were about 35-40 detailed sketches that came out of a very intensive writing period around moving, and somewhere within those is a very early version of ‘Blade’. Lyrically we definitely look at a lot of Zen, meditative ideas on existence and being across the whole album – we’re always tuning in to those core things in the everyday. “Stay close to no will to survive, These thoughts remind me that we’re too tied, pride, So you can close those doors and slide, Completely this for a time”.
The video is so epic for this one. We use all the forms we can in our work, and imagery definitely features heavily. It’s quite mad, how well Werkflow envisaged the whole thing from the start and really came through with it. We’re heavily into what they do, and absolutely love what they’ve done for this. It was all shot using CG within a games engine. We traveled to Sheffield to make a full 3D scan and motion capture of A, then they got deep into making this whole world back in London. The attention to detail is just beyond. The video is set in a very intense and collapsing environment but with this really emotional core. That basic idea feels a lot like the track, and we worked a lot on the vocal processing to give this sort of sentient machine feel to it.
9. The Opaque
Recently we were listening to this and it just struck how orchestral the final third is. The sounds aren’t aping traditional acoustic instruments, but the timbre and melodic structure, once you hear it that way, start to really resonate in a similar way to an explosion of interlocking orchestral melody. We’re planning to transpose a bunch of our catalogue to a more Modern Classical palette soon. There’s a lot happening melodically that if you focus on texture or rhythm, you might miss. It’d be fun to see what happens with that sort of focus pull.
With Ψ we spent a lot of time playing material out to test it, then coming back to the studio to tweak and use things we discovered or tried for the first time live. A lot of these tracks could easily be played out at clubs. We’ve been doing a few select shows this Autumn with some special things planned soon leading into a full tour in 2017. We like to still keep the live setup flexible – like a perpetual beta. ‘Intercity’ and a few others had totally different AV when we played at Corsica Studios to a show in Prague 10 days later. We’re into keeping it fluid, advancing the live system constantly in tech and in what’s being presented through it. It’s really exciting for us that that’s possible and we fully embrace it in what we’re doing.
A sort of three-phase track, ‘Yyang’ sounds so summery to us – brainfreeze and campfire summer. It’s an optimistic frame, but the words are looking a lot at media, how people are influenced and things like that. It’s hard not to think about the way ideas are guided through the news and shared information, with everything that’s happening around the world right now. Recent events in the UK and USA in public opinion are massively off the charts. It’s so sad, but we hope to see a new change come about as a reaction, and a big part of that is us all taking personal responsibility for what we put into our heads and then out into the world. “What d’you like, What you meant to like… See that machine out to the front?”
Those digits are the CAS Number for Dopamine. Seems a perfect close to the album. Dopamine is the chemical that drives our brains’ pleasure centres. We’re so inspired by what can happen out there in conversation, everyday relationships, clubs, books, film… everything… and we both have really formative experiences coming from all of those places. We’re constantly inspired the further we go, with so much possibility in creating new experiences with sound, visuals and environments, and we’re really clear on wanting to tune in and feel things really deeply – to dig so deep in exploring it all as individuals and together with everyone else out there on this journey with us.
Featured image: Alex De Mora
Order Ψ here.
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