Necroscape is the second album from Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras’ modernist electro-acoustic rock proposition tētēma. Joined by violinist Erkki Veltheim and drummer WIll Guthrie in quartet formation, this record continues to employ the wayward orchestrations and arresting physicality of their 2014 debut Geocidal yet is renewed by a melodic language which grounds it’s multi-colored twists and turns in hallucinatory lyricism.
Where Geocidal was loosely based on futuristic post-colonial dystopias, its even cheerier successor is sculpted around isolation in the surveillance age; and although lofty/high-concept sounding, this is still an intensely fun and heavy listen. Necroscape synthesizes a lot of territory: odd-time rock, musique concrète, otherworld grooves, soul, industrial noise, microtonal psychoacoustics….seemingly strange bedfellows on paper, yet in the ears they surprisingly coalesce into 13 songs which playfully challenge our notions of sonic logic and make you move at the same time. In a nutshell, listening to Necroscape creates the weird sensation of exclaiming “of course!” and “wtf?” simultaneously.
5 years in the making, Necroscape mushroomed organically from Pateras’ production based on tape loops, analogue synthesis and rarified keyboard instruments in combination with Patton’s dense vocal arrangements, Veltheim’s exploratory violins and Guthrie’s unique percussive strategies. The result is a handmade, kaleidoscopic tour-de-force which re-imagines songwriting as something other. Artwork features beautiful leather sculptures by Talitha Kennedy, tiled lyric sheet and limited edition white vinyl. tetema invites you to listen.
Pateras and Patton “created an intelligent but ferocious mixture of avant-garde experimentalism, world music accents, and heavy metal velocity” (All Music) within the confines of their 11-track, 2014 debut, Geocidal. NME described the collection as “Roni Size getting spiked with GHB and fed through a woodchipper” while Alternative Press said, “once you are acclimated, it will leave you tingling.” The pair, joined by Will Guthrie (percussion) and Erkka Veltheim (violin), both of whom appear on Necroscape as well, made their live debut, fittingly at the Tasmania Mona music and art festival. The Guardian said of the outing: “tetema didn’t enrapture with anthems or token festival rock gestures, they enraptured with mood, with surprises, and with evocations rarely felt by audiences…”
Key song descriptions from Anthony:
“Haunted On The Uptake”
Sounds like The Melvins’ tour van broke down in the Balkans and instead of going home, they decide to open a mountain laboratory dedicated to possible hybrids of Rembetika and hardcore. This sounds like the pop music of a youth I wish I’d had, but instead I grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne smoking bongs and listening to Bungle.
“Wait Till Mornin'”
Peter Gunn on methamphetamine with RD Burman as co-pilot, being pursued by Madlib through an early 80s London industrial estate. This was one of the first songs we wrote for the new album, and probably played a big part in convincing us doing another would be a good idea. It is the only song on the record with a drum less chorus; like a lot of our music, the drama is upside down.
Mike and I wrestled with this one in the alleyway but eventually beat it to death with absurdly long sentences. It’s a meditation on facile internet culture and misplaced ambition delivered over close-sic’d prepared piano, giallo synth/pizzicato lines, and stratospheric children’s rounds. Trust us it’s a hoot.
No other band would combine microtonal buchla with hyperactive drumming to serenade Paganini and Leonard Cohen passed out in a hot tub. This track is like pressing fast forward on both a Sclesi and Yasunao Tone CD on different systems pointed at each other, except it’s performed live. Quite possibly the only track in the world to refer to Deleuze as ‘chichi’.