London Duo patten’s New EP Is an Agitated ‘Requiem’ for the World

The Warp signees talk loss, smoke, and ritual—and stream their followup to 'Ψ.'

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May 12 2017, 2:59pm

In each of the videos for the four tracks on the patten's new EP Requiem, out today on Warp, a cloud hangs heavy. Blue vapor—like mist on a spring morning or a pocket of fog in the dark corner of club—twirls menacingly in the stark light. D and A—as the band's two members are known publicly—assure me when we speak via email that it's heavier than it first appears. It's meant to evoke smoke—beautiful, but capable of making you cry and choke. The world is smoldering, and they're starting to feel the effects of all the inhalation.

Recorded in the wake of the death of D's father and in the midst of a time of environmental, political, and geographic upheaval, Requiem feels agitated. It's an admission that things don't feel ok—and that such sentiments can, in themselves, be ok. The blistered percussion and layered instrumentation follows in the tradition of their last Warp release—last year's Ψ—but the pieces here feel a bit more coherent and song-shaped, as if, despite the smoke in the videos, all the societal turbulence has brought them clarity.

Requiem is out today and streaming below as a YouTube playlist, alongside a brief chat with D and A about smoke, ritual, and the state of the world.

THUMP: What drew you to make an audiovisual project? Is this something you'd always intended patten to encapsulate?
patten: Sound and imagery are fully connected out there IRL, so we try to present things in that way with our music too. We see and hear a car screech to a halt as one experience—we don't separate it all out in our everyday lives. It's weird to think of what it'd be like if we did though. Even words are kinds of images in lots of ways, as sounds, as literal pictures they push into our heads. All the senses are so together that smell, touch, sight, taste, and hearing all end up as part of the same realtime experience or memory. So we just try and speak in the language we're all living in.

Tell me about your relationship to smog, mist, and vapor. Why is that a potent image for you?
The word potent is really spot on as a door into what we do and this EP, but on the imagery we actually thought more specifically of smoke and not so much fog, mist or vapor. With those three there's a kind of soft obscuring, indistinctness, or lack of clarity—but smoke is something else. It's more like a thick, potent, material. It stings your eyes, it gets in your lungs, and it's what spreads through the air after a catastrophe, way after the fire's been put out.

We're definitely thinking about smoke specifically in the imagery around Requiem. Thick, stinging, pungent smoke. Smoke's a warning something's about to happen too. The sign of a beginning and an end. Sonically, the recordings are actually really dry-sounding too, like hot, dry particles with hardly any reverb. It's all sort of direct in that way. That heavy potency is really at the front of our minds right now and for sure there in the tracks on the EP and others we're writing right now. Directness has always been massive for us. Emotion and potency. There's going to be a lot of new music from us coming out this year. Feels necessary. Our imprint Kaleidoscope it about to go into overdrive too.

You've expressed some consternation in the past about the fact that your music isn't taken as "songs"—is this record a response to that at all?
We wouldn't say there was any angst or anxiety about that—we're cool with the way people out there might choose how they want to relate to things we've made and we're grateful to even have a platform to reach out from. So definitely no consternation, but for sure it's strange to us how the idea of songs hasn't been discussed much around what we do. Sometimes past vocals have been described in text as samples when it was actually just D singing, which he'd then do live, along with playing guitar. Things like that seem to fly under the radar which is really funny for us. Maybe because they don't fit a certain narrative some people might place us in—that sort of "producer" role.

Even around Ψ there was talk around the new introduction of vocals when there's been voice as a key part to so much patten music over the years. We come from a lo-fi band world as much as an electronic music one and that definitely comes through in everything from what we put out on record to how we approach our live shows.

Photo by Lucie Rox

A requiem is usually given for someone who has died, who's this requiem for?
It's for lots of things. It feels like across the world, we've gone through this turning point where a clear epoch has come to a close and we've been shoved into a very different moment. Environmentally, politically, geographically. It's a real jump cut in a lot of ways. So on one level it's definitely relating to that—for anyone to use in their own way—to blow off some steam, for an energy boost, to keep believing. On a more personal perspective, D's father passed away at the start of this year after a long illness, so that's obviously been a huge part of both of our lives for a long time.

We made a record under the name Actual Magic that was dedicated to him too. It's this LP made entirely from Motown Christmas tracks processed into this sort of heavy fucked up ambient. We made it a few years ago and were waiting for the right moment to release it, and finally we put it out really fast in December when we knew there wasn't long left. We had planned to release it as a really lush limited vinyl edition in the middle of the summer, because a mid-summer Christmas record somehow seemed so right, but we had to move really fast with it in the end basically because we wanted him and it to exist on the planet at the same time for a while.

On every vinyl copy of Ψ there's the initials we etched into the master of family we dedicated that record to as well. We were literally receiving Ψ LP masters at his bedside in spring 2016. The image of something in a state of sort of majestic, beautiful, dark and melancholy HD collapse that the album cover artwork centered around was very related to all this. The death of someone close to you is a deeply earth-shattering thing. Having that process take place with the backdrop of everything that unfolded in the news across 2016 into 2017 was really strange. Seismic shifts at every level, from one more personal than you can even imagine and at the same time on this wider shared political sphere. So Requiem reaches out across those poles.

Also traditionally, requiems are masses that are heavy on ceremony—are you interested in ritual in your music-making or music consumption? Or your life even?
We're interested in tradition as a kind of ritual. Like how "the way things are" gets that way, and how things can maybe be different to that. Maybe we can work to create some different paths. It feels like we all need to be fighting for alternative paths on a massive scale. There's a lot of danger hiding in assumptions that the past somehow got it right—like the regressive turn we're seeing in public life, creativity, politics.

There's as much danger too in believing that the past was all wrong and that only "the new" has any value to our present and future. Balance like anything, but being aware of those polarities and how they affect us in what we do, how we act and what we think all seems an important daily thing on every level. If we're going to fix the mess things are in all over, we need to start looking deep within ourselves as well as at what's out there. It's so important to team up, mobilize and work together—that's so, so key, but a part of having that work is shaking up your own thinking and being ready sometimes to prove your past self wrong. We owe it to tomorrow to look at the past unfiltered.