patten Ψ

[Warp; 2016]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: cold fusion, traptronica
Others: 18+, D/P/I, Hellraiser 2, Trey Songz

It was not too long ago that a certain brand of popular music staked a kind of exclusivity. It was one justified on the pretense of a sort of esotericism, but, really, its association was defined, predictably, by the finite reaches of normative typology of difference. Miscegenation was anathema: melodic sensibility too feminine, too vulgar; overt rhythm too black. Progressive composition was favored, though conservative structures were at times well-liked as a kind of performative rebellion.

The identification is, of course, a politically-charged and incomplete one; it is perhaps a personally biased characterization. And it is certainly not intended to defame any artist or their work. The attitudes framing and affirming these fictional distinctions, though, did exist and yet persist: there is “serious music” made by “serious artists,” and then there is the chaff: the “party and bullshit” music, the background noise. These latter musics are, in no way, defining of a fan or artist’s character or her sensibilities, at least not in the way the former is.

It is ironic, then, that the phenomenon sometimes called cultural appropriation predates this development, having existed, in pop, since the genre’s very cradling. Yet I posit that, as a sort of poetical conclusion, appropriation and its recognition thereof have created a space for a final, organic “mixing of the modes” — that Platonic no-no. So the artistic-cultural distinctions appear to be on a gradual decline, at least for the time being, among fans and artists alike. And works like Ψ are only evidence of this.

Half of the album is a trap record and the other half is a more traditional electronic record in the mold of previous releases. Yet the sides are splintered and difficult to identify holistically. Snares and bass drums and bleats and clangs bleed into an emulsified interstitial fluid throughout the steady listen. Ψ seems to be on its Dark Rumsfeld: it is a heuristic feeling-out in the pitch, an attempt to ascertain an unknown-unknown, a sonic noumenon: it is that unheard sound, those as-of-yet undetermined harmonies just beyond the reaches of the empirical. Here is the knowledge of the good and the evil and, throughout Ψ, there feels something of a disembodied sonic pushback: a persistent beat-like bass thump, one seeming to acknowledge that seemingly vain search for inter-genera connectivity.

The borrowing of in-house trap elements is neither crass nor exploitative: it is rather a seeming extension of the communicative nature of patten’s project. More importantly, it fucking bangs. Too many 21st-century popular electronic artists have relied on a tired pretense of the homogenous and the serene. Thankfully, that seems to be on the wayside and patten likewise reject that operation for a provocative suggestion of the grotesque, the wilderness, of the what-not and what-could-be. It scans like a critique, but it is moreover appealing: a deconstruction of pop you can flex to, have sex to.

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