Mike Patton and fellow Ipecac resident Kaada's collaboration Romances dwells in the twilight zone where spooky and seductive meet. Both artists' work reveals a love of cinematic music: Kaada is an award-winning film music composer in his native Norway, and Patton has paid homage to great horror scores on Fantômas' Director's Cut. Romances is just as filmic as that album – actually, the affection for the spooky, evocative and arranged is the biggest romance going on here – but it is less noisy and intense, and more obviously melodic and playful, than Director's Cut.
"Invocation"'s creepily whimsical melody and choral voices, for example, recall Danny Elfman's work more than Fantômas' grislier sound. Patton's fondness for over-the-top theatricality tends to dominate Romances, particularly on the eight-minute "Aubade," where his vocals span ghostly choral passages, Tasmanian devil-like grunts and growls and ululating that sounds like an unusually tuneful bleating goat.
Like nearly all of Patton's collaborations, the album makes the most of his voice, and he's shown over and over again that he can adapt his singing to almost any setting (and vice versa). The torchy "Seule" and "Pitie Pour Mes Larmes" feature some of the most straightforward crooning he's done in a while, but within the album's context, lyrics like "You came to take my heart from me" have more to do with grand guignol than lingering glances and meaningful sighs, and the song's richly layered harmonies once again emphasize the album's mingling of sensual and eerie.
Kaada's part of the collaboration shows up in Romances' lush, playful sound and eclectic influences: "L'Absent," in another incarnation, could be a jaunty French folk melody, while "Viens, Les Gazons Sont Verts" mixes spaghetti western theme music with exotica. And, though it sounds pretty different than Thank You for Giving Me Your Valuable Time's fusion of electronica and '60s soul, "Pensees Des Morts" – a playfully eerie mutation of rattling percussion and an oddly buoyant melody – will appeal to fans of Kaada's collage aesthetic.
Eastern European music, cabaret, lounge and classic horror movie-music instruments like organs, theremin and harp all get their due and go a long way towards Romances' journey from sentimental to creepy and back again. The album is immensely entertaining, not just for Patton and Kaada fans, but for anyone looking for a soundtrack to their own romantically macabre thoughts.
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