Cruel Cycle of Fear and Hope
Mike Patton, the multi-talented Faith No More frontman, with unearthly vocal abilities, shows off his composition chops for the 1922 Soundtrack. Notorious for his unbelievable vocal range and technique as well as his chameleonic ability to attack genres as distant as rap and metal and avant-garde, Patton has had an incredibly fruitful career. Though Faith No More has received the most public attention with hits like “Easy” and “Epic,” he also penetrated critic’s hearts through his work with Mr. Bungle and ventured into sensual R&B with Lovage. He is no stranger to vocal acting, lending his oftentimes monstrous voice to major motion pictures and video games alike. In recent years, he has focused his unyielding work ethic towards composing soundtracks, such as his acclaimed work for Crank: High Voltage. He continues his exploration of composing for film by collaborating with Zak Hilditch for his 2017 horror flick 1922.
With the 1922 Soundtrack, Patton immerses his incredibly sensible ear into horror. Though many of the tracks fall below the two-minute mark, he manages to embody the sonic manifestation of wrath, fear and agony within the short time he takes. A perfect example of this is “Problem Wife,” where Patton conveys murderous fury within 21 seconds using grating violins that repeatedly grate the atmosphere with their sharp and zipping tones. On “Death of a Marriage,” he contrasts sheer suspense with the unsettling ambiance of a meditative state taken over by darker forces. He layers galloping wooden beats on top of each other, interrupted by a bombastic gong and smashing cymbals. What follows is an uneasy quietness coated with a metallic ringing and peppered with icy piano notes, played one by one. He does this all in just over a minute, heightening listeners up to their peak and pushing them back down, forced to experience everything in the second half in slow motion. These minuscule exercises in emotional expression show Patton exercising complexity without the need of any excess time.
On the other hand, Patton also plays around with recurrent and thematic instrumentals, altering “Mea Culpa” and “Sweetheart Bandits” ever so slightly but effectively in the versions that follow. “Mea Culpa” fades into a lone violin’s shrill moans, eventually joined by more. Compared to some of the other tracks on the soundtrack, “Mea Culpa” isn’t necessarily goosebump-inducing. Instead, it’s more emotional and dramatic, with its rumbling deeper strings foreboding of something more to come. “Mea Culpa 2” fulfills this sonic prophecy, pushing the familiar melody of the previous version into a much more uncomfortable territory. The recording is much more lo-fidelity, with a chilling wind blowing through the background. The strings are slowed down and screech with pain, followed by descending chimes that craze over listeners’ spines. By the end of the song, an oscillating hum takes the forefront. It seems like a whimsical oasis from the nightmarish first half of “Mea Culpa 2,” until it glitches away with bassy blares.
“Sweetheart Bandit” and “Sweetheart Bandit 2 ‘We All Get Caught’” has much subtler differences compared to the “Mea Culpas.” On the first version, a lone reedy instrument plays amongst strings escalating dramatically into bursting harmonies that are equally creepy and euphoric. With a blend of both major and minor harmonies, the strings are gorgeously epic, only to quiet down every once in a while to make room for cacophonous creaks. It is difficult to verbalize “Sweetheart Bandit” in a black and white manner – it is an amalgamation of polar emotions that could only accompany the story of a man who murders his own wife. On “Sweetheart Bandit 2,” though the reedy instrument makes a comeback, the strings sound just a bit angrier. There’s still the same portions of sensory overload followed by moments of relative minimalism, but something has shifted. Are there more moments of minor harmonies? Are these screeches louder and harsher, or were they the same as last time? This type of thematic confusion parallels well with the slow-burning haunting of the film as the farmer’s dead wife emerges back into her husband and son’s life step by step. Though sour strings create an unsettling harmony, an insertion of distinct plucked strings makes everything unbelievably crisp. These plucked strings are hopeful amongst the terror of the rest of the instrumentals, ending the soundtrack with a mixed bag of fear and hope.
On the 1922 Soundtrack, Patton overwhelms his listeners as he does on “Elphis” as much as he coaxingly soothes them on “Magnolia Hotel,” the song that follows. The 1922 Soundtrack is an everlasting cycle of frights and faux-lullabies, the perfect accompaniment to the cat-and-mouse game that the murderer husband and murdered wife play with each other in the film. Even as a standalone, the 1922 Soundtrack is a sonic landscape of its own, drawing out some of the most powerful human emotions – paranoia, contempt, hope and agony, to name a few – with ease and expertise. Though Patton is just as unpredictable about which direction he is headed towards as he has always been, the 1922 Soundtrack is another testament to the unbelievable ends he can reach once he puts his mind to it.