Mike Patton - The Solitude of Prime Numbers - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Mike Patton - The Solitude of Prime Numbers

by Miz DeShannon Rating:6 Release Date:2011-11-14

Warning - this album is NOT for Faith No More fans. The Solitude of Prime Numbers (official title: Music From the Film and Inspired By the Book The Solitude of Prime Numbers (La Solitudine Dei Numeri Primi) and from here on in shortened to 'Solitude' (bored yet?) has been acclaimed as one of Mike Patton's most contemplative works yet.

An Italian film directed by Saverio Costanzo, The Solitude of Prime Numbers is a horror drama based on the novel about two people written by Paulo Giordano, and is Patton's third time scoring a film project, after A Perfect Place (2008) and Crank - High Voltage (2009). It's being hailed as a "provocative, genre-defying" work that is both beautifully orchestrated and quite a departure from his previous works, which have actually all been provocative, genre-defying and fairly beautifully orchestrated, if he's orchestrated them (see Mondo Cane 2010, with a 30 piece orchestra) and not just screamed.

There have been numerous high-brow discussions in this case about the merging of Patton's music with Costanzo's visual representation of Giordano's book and how that changes the feelings and effect of each element. It's kind of obvious that would happen, but that's much too complicated an avenue to go down and discuss within a mere album review. If the film isn't a moving, disturbing, hauntingly minimal one then whoever was in charge of commissioning Patton should have written a better brief maybe.

Bear in mind that soundtracks are odd things to decide upon - should they be a collection of songs that people like from popular music, that get cut to shreds for their relevant parts to represent sections of the film, or are they tailor-made, unique pieces of music not to be found anywhere else and being totally representitive of the visual feast they are meant to sit alongside?

Either/or really, dependent on the nature of the film. And the nature of this film is that of a psychological and emotional journey between two people who have parallel lives, connected in uncanny ways. Perfect choice to get Mike Patton in to score the music then. I can't think of anyone who'd fit that criteria better as a musician. He's even gone to the great lengths of re-numbering the tracks to be prime numbers, but unfortunately your CD player will undoubtedly still show them as 1-16 due to the manufacturing process' inability to register such grandiose ideas.

Upon listening to the music again and again and again, it does grow on you in the sense that you become more comfortable with it, your brain has stopped questioning the manner in which it's put together and has realised that there is no real beginning and no real end. Each piece sounds more or less the same, sorrowful synth starts ('Twin Primes' track one/PN two) with some ferocious piano crescendos, and lots of John Carpenter-esque string pieces like 'Radius of Convergence' (track eight/PN 19).

'Identity Matrix' (track two/PN three) has a more immediate and upbeat tempo with an unrecogniseable instrument which sounds a little like a xylophone. There are definite tinges that Patton has worked with Björk before; there are similar constructs to her work from the last few years, just less use of bass-heavy beats and with more of a classical lean. 'Solitude' reflects the drama supposedly felt in the film, the odd relationships and goings on. It has a haunting feeling throughout, piano parts recorded from such a distance they evoke complete loneliness, and sinister unrecogniseable sounds help create dark and disturbing scenarios.

When listened to without care for the beginning and end of each piece, it all merges into a whole, constructed around time signatures and frequencies that are similar, close to each other but different, like the characters in the film. Even the final seven minute track circles back to the same melody as the opening track during the climax. Individually, they're much too similar, wouldn't stand up as 'singles' and if listened to on 'shuffle' with other tracks you'd think you'd got just the same one to listen to.

The thing with a film soundtrack is, it has to evoke the right message and emotion for the film, and without knowing exactly what that film is like it's very hard to say whether the music therefore is an effective piece. Apparently the director required music that wasn't thematic, and had no real identification, no sounds for scenes or characters, so in that sense Solitude is a success. The final seven minute piece is a convergence of a handful of ideas seeded throughout the rest of the album, and a collation of ideas throughout the film too.

Music that pushes the boundaries of what is considered normal in western writing - confusing time signatures, surprising peaks and unpredictable writing patterns - makes for a more interesting listening experience. I'm not opposed to what you might call 'weird' music in the slightest. Not everything that Patton has done fits into these ideas in a positive way though. Despite projects such as Mr Bungle and Tomohawk being ambitious, some of it sounds outright odd, and just doesn't work. And despite Solitude fitting the brief in the end, it's just not a very exciting piece of music to listen to.

I won't sit here and prevaricate about the thing, it's a bit drab. Yes, it comes together as a nice piece. Yes, it's technically very good, and, yes, it probably evokes the right kind of emotion expected by the director and the novellist and whoever else was involved in it's inception. But for the amount of rambling about the concept, Solitude is essentially incidental music at the end of the day, dragged out with a big idea behind it and for half-an-hour's worth of recording time.

Great concept, shame about the output.

Overall Rating (0)

0 out of 5 stars
  • This is the sort of album you can only listen to late at night, helps if it's snowing as well. That really weird quietness you get when it's snowed loads and there's no one about. The 30 Days of Night soundtrack is like this as well.

    Did you know that Mike Patton also provides the voices, or noises made by the zombies in I Am Legend. Once you know it you can tell it's him, they all sound like the screaming in Faith No More and Boo Ya Tribe's Another Body Murdered track.

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