Darkness in the Noonday Sun
For the soundtrack to recently released film The Place Beyond the Pines by director Derek Cianfrance, Mike Patton abides by two simple concepts: mood and tension. Though the arrangements are minimalist and the instrumentation is sparse and precisely placed, Patton gets the most out of these pieces through his skillful management of said concepts. Patton, no stranger to soundtracks—or really anything at this point—frequently lets out a slack of rope to the listeners, catches them in a momentary groove and then jerks them back to attention.
Take for example “Forrest of Conscience,” which begins with a subtle winding piano figure that repeats for half a minute before its mood breaks into a dark and unspeakably broody passage overtaking the rest of the song. It’s a simple move, almost sleight of hand, but it is effective, haunting as it is cinematic. Patton plays with this dynamic throughout, and even sometimes reverse it, as in “Handsome Luke,” which quietly broods from the get-go until it crashes into a spate suggesting the combined sensation of walking in pitch-black darkness and being blinded by a blaring noonday sun.
This is not an album that will find itself in your rotation often, but as an orchestral achievement, it’s a darn good one. Patton proves here, as he did on 2012’s Laborintus II, that his persona from his days as Faith No More’s frontman has long since failed to epitomize him as an artist. There is a fair amount of subtlety in his work, but because his vision is so interesting, it somewhat loses that disguise. All the better though, as his eccentric way of going about things gives the proceedings an added quality of mystery. Look no further than lead track “Schenectady,” which, while still playing with the same dynamics spoken of earlier, adds little detail elements—in this case, cleverly placed echoing guitar figures that pirouette across the backing that, though simple, really shine from a compositional standpoint.
And while his compositions do exude a wonderfully frightening demeanor, Patton also shows an ear for outside works, picking a diverse set of five tracks to round out the set. These range from the melodic, woodsy folk of Bon Iver (“The Wolves”) to the searing and sentimental aura of Ennio Morricone’s “Ninna Nanna Per Adulteri.” Though Patton clearly had certain moods in mind for his own compositions, the pre-existing songs he selected fill the space between his own sparse compositions nicely.
Film soundtracks are always an intriguing listen, especially when handled with the special care shown here. Patton might have the reputation of someone who stretches himself like putty, but his work suggests an auteur aesthetic which demands your respect and attention. This album is no exception and, without reinventing the wheel, gives an affecting inner working to the tone of the film it represents and serves to orchestrate and collect sounds which resemble little else out there on the musical landscape.