AMN Reviews: tētēma – Necroscape (2020; Ipecac Recordings)

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras are an interesting and unlikely duo. The former is a frontman of the legendary Mr. Bungle (now back together after 20 years), Faith No More, Fantomas, and numerous collaborations. The latter is a sound architect and experimental synthesist known mostly for his solo performances. Necroscape is their second effort as tētēma, and they are joined by Will Guthrie on drums and Erkki Veltheim on violin and mandolin.

At the outset, Patton’s vocalizations and personality appear to dominate the recording. Structurally there are plenty of moments in common with those of Bungle, with jump-cuts between tempos and styles. He sings, croons, screams, and generates the weird sounds that have been coming from his throat for 30 years now. But Pateras’s contributions are subtle yet perhaps more formative of the recording as a whole. He produces oddly compelling lines and distorted electronic explorations that give the pieces an unusual grounding. His approach, in a sense, is not unlike Patton’s, with a mix of styles, textures, and colors that are ever-shifting and never predictable. Guthrie combines rock and free-improv inflected drumming that contributes to the album’s aggression and weirdness. Veltheim is perhaps the most understated of the four, where his offerings are often combined with Pateras’s to the point that it is difficult to tell them apart. Without electric guitar or bass, these two cooperate to produce artificial heaviness.

The result is a dark, moody, yet energetic and relentless excursion across 13 tracks – one that is more than worthwhile for fans of any of the above or musical weirdness in general.