“We’re always reconfiguring, testing and pushing forward constantly. Perpetual beta” explain patten who describe their project as ‘morphing’ and ‘open.’ For almost a decade, musicians, artists, AV technicians and filmmakers have been coming in and out, creating a fluid network that is constantly forming and re-forming. As a unit, their backgrounds are varied in location and skill, with disciplines spanning music, visual art, history, design and film among others. patten is currently Franco-British duo D and A, who chat to us via email ahead of their Live AudioVisual event at London’s ICA on April 29.
The now South East London-based group, who recently released their third album Ψ (psi) via Warp Records (2016), are preparing for their largest headlining event in London to date, which brings together films, DJ sets, live electronic music and art installations featuring Mark Leckey, Oliver Laric, Muntean/Rosenblum, Tom Lea of Local Action, rkss and Filter Dread among others. Co-hosted with Soundcrash, the evening is organised by patten’s side project collective 555-5555, self described as a space to “create design, installation, sound, clothing, artwork… kind of anything we want both for patten and for other people,” with projects including long form videos, art direction, graphics and countless collaborations with many different artists.
“With production on the live set we’re always deep in learning, modifying and hacking bits of software and equipment to make the things we want” they say when I ask them about their process. The varied and community-oriented approach to making is evident in their sound; a multidirectional world that feels both slightly familiar yet entirely new. Pop, club, rave and industrial textures are folded into their high tech performances, creating a platform where we can experience being in our bodies. In a discussion that moves between mathematics of nature and shaking things up internally, to their current and upcoming projects with NTS and Kaleidoscope, the duo talk to to us about the experiences and influences that get channeled through their work.
** Is your music made to be experienced in person? Whats the relationship (or disconnect) between your live practice and your studio practice?
patten: Live is definitely a big part of it for us. We test a lot of things out on stage at clubs and festivals and let that feed back into what we do in the studio. It’s a place where we can make a really multi-sensory thing happen, using lighting, sound and video all at the same time. You can make something very powerful happen like that. We’ve both had really mind-blowing experiences out at clubs or gigs in the past – like at that 3am stage where everyone is loose and things can get very synaesthesic. Those sorts of moments have really inspired what we do live and on our records.
** The last gig I saw of yours at Corsica Studios, you were behind a sheet that was reflecting light beams, creating a completely immersive experience. I was really feeling. Can you talk a bit about feeling and altered states?
p: You were at that! Perfect. Yeah, that’s so important to us, that thing of feeling. Making sound and images that can trigger deep feels and emotions. It can be heavily trippy when everything just connects and you’re lost in the middle of it all. Altered states aren’t just escapist though. It seems like a really important part of finding new ways of looking at things that can go on to change your regular, everyday life. If we’re all going to fix the mess things are in out there, we desperately need new ideas – and having your mind violently change angles is a massive part of making that happen. We all need shaking up on an internal level.
** I noticed at the live event you were both wearing black and almost became invisible figures on the stage.
p: That’s true. We kind of put ourselves there as an equal element to the whole stage setup, so the focus shifts between us performing, video, lighting, smoke and the other parts. Different things come forward and fall back depending on what’s going on. So we’re not stuck with us at the centre the whole time. We’re into breaking down the clear stage and audience split so the music and images can pour right out into the space. That part is always developing. Finding ways to reach out as directly as we can.
** The music has quite a fractal nature about it, moving between, through and under genres, going somewhere deeper and deeper. Do you have an interest in this sort of shape? Or the relationship between shape and sound?
p: Yes definitely – the parts where divisions melt down between things like images and sound or between different genres – that’s really a big draw for us. Things like the collage we’ve used in a lot of the album cover artwork are all focused on that. That sort of rewiring and short-circuiting between things. Fractals are weird because they’re kind of like the OG algorithms. Totally pure and mathematical and at the same time the building blocks of so much nature. Equations that turn into visual art. Mathematical nature patterns. Then there’s the infinity side of fractals, it spins us out.
** Where do you think genre is right now?
p: In a lot of ways it’s disappearing – like in how people find and listen to stuff, it’s all more open than ever. The distance between pop and kind of more underground forms of music is getting smaller too. Everyone’s flipping things in their own way and we don’t think people are thinking genre so much now. It’s more just like “is this thing hitting me somehow or not?” Producers are drawing from all over too. A distorted old sample, a random iPhone recording, a new software patch, a glitched out YouTube video. It feels really exciting in that way. We do a 555-5555 radio show on NTS where we play entirely new music after doing a call out for tracks. So the shows are 100% new and a lot of unreleased music. We get stuff from all over the world, from Brooklyn, to Hong Kong to Moscow and you can feel genre boundaries melting along with the geographical ones. We ran some 555-5555 club nights a few years back at Powerlunches when it was still there and the vibe was similar with that. Keeping it liquid as possible.
** Who are some of your biggest influences?
p: We’re influenced by so many things like film, books, art, architecture. So we’ll be thinking as much about the narrative of a sci-fi film as much as we would a new piece of studio equipment, or how an Instagram clip of a sunset relates to something we just read in the news. Global politics is just off the charts right now. It’s impossible not to be strongly affected and to see that in what’s happening through patten and 555-5555. All of those things kind of channel through into what we do in our music and images. It feels important to use these platforms to talk about all of this. In September we’ll be helping out on this new course on film, design and propaganda run by Juha van’t Zelfde in Amsterdam. It’s called Shadow Channel. This relates a lot to that. We’re always drawn to things out there that seem to open up doors to new ways of thinking and doing things. You should check out all the stuff we’ve put out on our Kaleidoscope imprint.
There’s a lot planned with that for this year. A few weeks back we dropped the debut EP by someone based in Berlin who we’ve known for ages now recording under The Newcomer. We have this series called Aether Editions where it’s out on all digital platforms with a special edition on the Kaleidoscope Bandcamp. The special edition has extra tracks, samples, images, text and video that come as part of the download. There’s a massive untapped potential for what can be done with digital releases and the plan is to dive really deep into that over the coming releases with the imprint.
** Do your albums have concepts or themes? And can you tell us the meaning behind the Psi symbol for the new album?
p: We definitely have themes that run through everything as well as specifics for different albums. We chose the Psi symbol for the 3rd album because it has such an open set of meanings. Like this one single sign that can mean so many different things, from Neptune to the paranormal. It’s that open boundary thing we were talking about before. More than ever it feels like we need spaces where we can let our minds stay open. Open minds and new ideas as an anti to the closed minds and old ideas we see destroying the world around us at every level.**