By The Pattern Theory
Since their risky move to Berlin, The Pattern Theory have been gigging and slumming it, collecting nuggets of music like polyrhythmic squirrels. The result is this, their self-titled album with 8 tracks and a lovely tree on the cover. Inside are the earnest attempts of 3 lads attempting to make dickish musical concepts accessible to the everyman ambient rock fan. Bring it on.
Slip the disk into your drive and the swelling chords of 'Pyramid Schemes' blare out with all the drama and suspense of a Muse stadium gig intro, punctuated after 2 minutes by a gorgeous syncopated guitar line. Then the layering begins. A 3:2 polyrhythm gives your brain a brief work out before more silky guitar lines and a much appreciated descent into breakdown cool the nerves. That's some considerable analysis for an online review, but the bottom line is however accessible you're trying to make this music, it's crying out to be analysed.
Yes, it's mellow and pretty but it's also complex in a way that makes each part demand attention - One listen certainly isn't enough. The musicianship is top notch too; the phrasing is confidently articulated in guitar lines and drum beats, the rhythms complex with no signs of struggle, hocketing between left and right channels. Fans of Mogwai, Sig??nd 65Daysofstatic will undoubtedly find plenty to enjoy in this, though to my ears there's a lot about contemporary jazz in the simple tones, understated drums and extended chords. Jazz complexity administered through an ambient rock set-up.
Sat in a darkened room, with decent headphones, tracks like 'Coracles' really come into their own when the bass and drums smash in after about a minute of washy synth music. What's impressive too is that the themes never get repetitive - something always changes at just the right moment and before long you're onto a new groove or tone.
In terms of accessibility then, what are we dealing with? It's hard to imagine the average Justin Bieber fan rushing out to stick this on the old jukebox - the sounds are familiar but the content requires some careful consideration (not that I'm suggesting Justin Bieber hasn't earned his musical reputation, I'm just saying that it seems like more care has gone into this than simply auto-tuning the shit out of a glorified chipmunk). 'Framing Fields' is about the most familiar track with its simple chords and gorgeous guitar and glockenspiel melodies, it sounds like something that might have been written by the Cary Brothers (minus vocals) crossed with the softer end of Bloc Party. Whether it's The Pattern Theory allowing their pop sensibilities to creep through or just an excuse to write in 4/4, it's gorgeous.
Even though the tone of the album doesn't change much from one song to the next (to the point where you could be forgiven for thinking it's just one long track) it doesn't get stale. Part of this comes from the impeccable level of production on it. Even if the rhythms jar, the tones certainly don't and the whole album has that washy effect that you look for in great atmospheric music.
Having seen these live I can vouch for this album not being a case of studio trickery - these dudes can play. For a 3 piece, their sound is massive and all the more impressive when you consider their bassist is essentially an organ pedal board. My view is that it's a brilliant album, complex without being all up in your grill about it. It's not, however, a casual album. To have it on in the background would be a waste, you've got to give it the time it deserves but when you do you'll get so much from it.
Glissando is Richard Knox and Elly May Irving.