Mike Patton - "Twin Primes" (The Solitude of Prime Numbers)
It’s been 20-plus years since the world at large first encountered Mike Patton, erstwhile vocalist for the funk-metal outfit Faith No More. He was a bulging-eyed California nerd-punk flouncing around opposite a tortured fish and sporting a t-shirt for his lesser-known project, Mr. Bungle. Since then, he’s established himself as one of art-rock’s most polarizing polymaths, lending his operatic voice to a maddening array of projects while living part-time in Italy and becoming fluent in that nation’s language and culture. This time, he’s created a soundtrack for an invisible film based on Paolo Giordano’s hauntingly detached novel La Solitudine Dei Numeri Primi, a story of lives that run parallel and fail to really intersect.
The physical release is every bit an art object. Tracks are indexed to prime numbers only, with quick buffers of silence in between, the sort of mischievous compact-disc-format exploitation that was big in the early 1990s. It comes folded in a cardboard leaf. If you’re going to accuse Mike Patton of pretension, go ‘head on.
What sort of music does The Solitude of Prime Numbers contain? The bouncier, catchier bits (as has been noted elsewhere) sound a bit like rough sketches from Mr. Bungle’s 1999 out-pop masterpiece California, hooking with ghostly Beach Boys-isms and then vanishing as quickly as they appeared. The rest is mostly dark ambience, quick pieces that cast thick, shapeless shadows without aspiring to the nausea of Patton’s more aggressively disorienting work. His unmistakable voice is hardly a factor at all.
It is, to wit, a vanity project, the sort of thing that could only happen under the auspices of Patton’s wildly successful vanity label. For the uninvested outsider (neither lover nor hater), it’s distinctively spooky background music with a few satisfyingly jarring surprises, nothing to get terribly worked up about. For Patton’s large army of obsessive pupils, it’s an essential document of the Master at his most conceptually obsessive, working on a highly specialized venture to his exact specifications without giving a fuck who else might dig it. And never the twain shall meet.