“…unsettling, paranoia inducing chamber music for a wet afternoon when you’re too tired to actually check if you’re being stalked.” – Mike Patton puts the frighteners on Dara Higgins.
A tinkle of a sinister pianner playing a childlike melody, tapping away like the footsteps of some gimp legged murderer, slowly, inexorably, getting closer. That’s the sound of The Solitude Of Prime Numbers, Mike Patton’s extended soundtrack to the film of the same name. Soundtracks often suffer from a lack of context, written as they are as accompaniments to a visual experience, and this occurs on this album too: Is there any point to a 50 second piece of music specifically tailored to a scene in a film, if we cannot see that scene? The longer tracks, the ones where the melody, and most often the ambience and ominous disquiet, are let breathe are the ones that really work.
The voice, which is what Patton has previously been about it would be fair to surmise, makes only fleeting appearances as a punctuation mark in some of the melodies. That creepy jauntiness, the kind of behind-this-cheerful-demeanour-I’m-quite-insane idiom that has marked Patton’s vocal work in the past is also present here. Songs that trip along on a simple, playful melody, turn a corner into a fug of dark expectation and reverb. The whole album feels like a wander through some baroque, palatial spread, a brief stop in each room, echoes from a piano being tickled malevolently somewhere down the hall, the rumble of footfalls from above, the sound of dust settling on sheet covered ornaments. There are recurring notes and melodies throughout, again most likely representative of something we cannot see.
I don’t think that there was ever any doubt that there was more to Patton than just the voice and barely concealed mischievous intent, and here he gets to indulge the malevolent composer in himself. Undoubtedly the music would work better with the actual film going on in the background, or indeed foreground, but some pieces work well on their own; unsettling, paranoia educing chamber music for a wet afternoon when you’re too tired to actually check if you’re being stalked.