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Mike Patton and Fennesz, Dublin, 4 June 2007

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Despite an overly ambitious number of support acts and a slightly over packed venue, the unlikely pairing of Mike Patton and Fennesz was an intriguing if not always exciting way to spend an evening. They put on what seemed to be a mostly improvised performance, far louder and abrasive than expected, that had its problems but also had its golden moments.


Chequerboard combined acoustic guitar playing with a few pedals, all fed through his Jimmy Behan's laptop. The result was a mix of looped fingerpicking and heavily processed guitar sounds. Sometimes it worked quite well; the textures Behan wove out of the fingerpicked guitar were nice. However, it was hard to enjoy in the crowded venue, such delicate music lends itself to somewhere you can sit down and absorb it properly. Lakker were another duo but this time it was all sample based, quirky tempos and rhythms made from heavy metal and noise samples being their tools in trade. Unfortunately they came across as a noisier but less adventurous Squarepusher, too much emphasis on beats designed to give whiplash to anyone foolish enough to try and dance to it. The solo performance of ZoiD was interesting at first. His jazzy take on electronic improvisation was fresh sounding but before long it lost its magic as he employed the same techniques as the previous pair of performers, the end result was a repetitive and predictable performance.

On paper, this collaboration could have sounded like anything. Expectations of something dreamy and melodic along the lines of Fennesz's best work with Patton crooning over the sounds were soon shattered. The sound was huge and formless, a wall of noise toppling out of the PA (which I had foolishly stood beside and could not move somewhere better as the venue was packed). Both artists conjured an impressive amount of sound out of their various devices on the stage, sometimes using their respective instruments (Patton’s voice and Fennesz's electric guitar) to expand the textures and rhythms away from the wholly mechanical.

Out of the two, Fennesz seemed most comfortable performing. His distinctive glitching occasionally popped out of the mix, a familiar sound in a maelstrom of clamouring noise. While he did use some familiar sounding techniques, he never seemed to rely on any particular trick and constantly pushed the music onward and outward. He was at his best during those odd moments when something resembling a rhythm was present, his guitar work shimmering like a cloudburst on a summer's day. I have always loved his music and so in my ears the times when his influence shone through were the best of the evening (it is too bad he did not get to do a solo set instead of one of the support bands).

Patton's contributions were not always as enjoyable. While it is impossible to see Patton perform with any of his bands and not be entertained, after a while I get the feeling that it does not matter who he is with as he will still do roughly the same thing. His vocals are great but he did not seem to connect with the music as much as he could have. He worked his way through his various vocal gymnastics, using different effects and microphones to change his voice. He seemed to run out of ideas during the encore and revert to some of the vocal techniques from earlier in the performance. That being said, there were several moments where the chemistry between Patton and Fennesz was potent and the music at these points was superb.

It would be interesting to hear a more polished version of these pieces (provided they are not wholly improvised, it was hard to tell if they had a plan for what they were doing or not). A studio or a best of the tour recording would be great, there is something worthwhile going on between the duo but they did not seem to fully tap into their powers in this performance.

Last Updated on Sunday, 10 June 2007 10:58  


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