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patten: “Fixity is an illusion, and all is changing constantly…”

patten: “Fixity is an illusion, and all is changing constantly…”

15 April 2014, 22:45

patten is one of Warp Records’ newest and most mysterious artists.

We caught up with him shortly after the release of new album ESTOILE NAIANT to talk about identity and technology.

ESTOILE NAIANT follows on from the anagrammatic EOLIAN INSTATE – what’s the relationship between these two releases?

There are lots…that’s an infinite question – but in terms of the titling, EOLIAN INSTATE is an anagram of ESTOILE NAIANT. The LP title came first time-wise, though the EP and its title was released to the public ahead of the LP.

GLAQJO XAACSSO was so well received, do you ever feel pressure because of such critical acclaim?

No, not at all really. The patten project has been running long before what would commonly be described as critical acclaim had been attributed to it and will run long after anything like that ceases to be. Nothing about those sorts of chance meetings between what’s happening with what we are doing here in the project and critical vogue really affects the motion and gravity inside of this thing – if woolen clothing is all over the high street one year and not the next, families who have made knits for a century or two don’t just stop and start using nylon – it’s a bigger thing than those micro fluctuations. We can only see the true impact of things culturally in hindsight and even then, those histories are always subject to change and revision year by year.

That’s one of the many fascinating things about perception, culture and value systems – none of this is static. It’s never been intended for this project to be ‘popular’ or well-received as such – or for it to be unpopular or antagonistic for that matter – it’s just not what it’s about. The forces driving it are entirely different to those. Imagine living as an activity driven purely by a drive for popularity – imagine that? Insane.

When recording music what kind of mental state do you have to be in? Your tracks are very complex and dense, how do you start the process?

It really varies. The main consistent thing is finding ways to rupture habit or tried and tested techniques, really attempting to keep the process absolutely revelatory and shifting. Sometimes work is done on the edge of sleep, other times when the mind is sharp as could be – it’s all useful in getting to something that contains all manner of types of decision-making – the entire spectrum from fully intuitive through to what’s often called cerebral. I’m really interested in the idea of transcending your own imagination – not being bound by your own thoughts.

Do you ever feel limitations in producing music? Say, a piano has a finite number of keys and combinations which can, although unlikely, be exhausted…

There is an endlessness in any system if you look at it openly. With the piano for example, imagine if we were to both to make a pact right now to compose and play a new piece of music every day for the rest of our lives, only using one key, say F♯2. Adding more rules, with that key only ever to be pressed for a set duration – say for a sixteenth of a second, and at a given velocity of key press – let’s say ‘softly’.

That might seem limited initially, but simply varying the duration between the notes would give us more than a life’s work of options. One day you could write and play a piece where the F sharp is played just twice over the day with a 23 hour and 59 minute and 59 second gap between the first and second note.

Another day a very similar approach but with a 23 hour, 59 minute and 58 second gap. Some other time the very same piano key could be played staccato constantly, unrelenting for the day’s entire duration. What happens if we then never tune the piano? The limitations are only within one’s thinking – there are no finite limitations, even within the strictest seeming of systems.

You’ve described playing live as moving in a different direction from your released tracks. Do you relish the live environment as a creative space or use it as a space to showcase and perform?

Yes, the live environment is a key part of the whole project – definitely. As a creative compositional zone, it allows for the exploration of the potential for the pieces to take different routes, to find new forms within themselves. The setup I use is arranged in a very particular way to allow for spur of the moment decisions to be acted upon and shift things radically. It’s different every time.

That’s not even taking into account all the other factors like the sound-system, the way the crowd is feeling, the type of space, time of day – it’s utterly without end.

You’ve played some interesting venues such as the Tate and a seated NY gig. What live environments interest you and how would you ideally like to showcase your music?

All of them are unique and ideal in different ways, so there’s no ideal as such. Each environment allows for new possibilities and so they are equal in that sense. There are things that can take place is a super-small basement venue that can’t in a huge auditorium and vice versa. I played in this beautiful Spanish botanical garden once a few years ago for LEV festival in Gijon at something between like 3 or 5 in the afternoon – I can’t recall the exact slot now – but it was early. At the time I hadn’t played many daytime shows at all in this way, so it was fascinating for that, and then the environment of an outdoor show was also completely without precedent for me then.

I think the material I am working with at the moment is fairly flexible – in that it can exist at 3pm in bright sunlit garden or at 3am in a warehouse somewhere – and as a result the environments have been really different – it’s a lucky situation to be able to experience and test all of those situations and let them seep into the project.

Jane Eastlight’s video for “Drift” has a lot of natural imagery with the central image of the hazy ball of light, how do you read the ball of light? And how, in your eyes, does the natural imagery sit with the digital influenced music?

One of the important ideas running through the whole patten project and by extension, embodied in the visual elements developed with Jane, is that we want to create materials that work as a sort of invitation to the open thinking of people who might come into contact with it in some way. The work is produced to allow for that sort of unrestricted exploration that Jane, myself and others involved in this hold so dearly in our own lives, to be extended from the making process and continue in the activity of reception by audiences at the other end.

In that sense, it’s all collaboration – a group activity without end. Just by listening to a track or watching a video or coming to a live show, you are participating in the creation of something. This is where things start to get really interesting – when the work exists out there in the minds of others.

In terms of the natural/digital divide, there’s really no such opposition. ‘Digital’ originally refers to our hands, our ten fingers – digits – that we used to develop a numerical system with an easy, universal bodily referent. So when we see columns of red numbers running wildly on hi-tech plastic and metal displays, we are looking at an abstracted self-portrait of humanity, of our bodies, our minds, and our uncrushable desire & ability to communicate with each other about the world we find ourselves in – we are looking at nature.

In past interviews you mention taking a moment out of a roller-coaster ride and inserting it into a stream of events. In an age of shuffling music and re-organising tracklists, how do you feel someone listening to your music should consume ESTOILE NAIANT?

There is a boundless array of options – all of them absolutely as perfect as the other. I wouldn’t describe the interaction with the record and all other elements of ESTOILE NAIANT as an act of consuming though – it’s more of a two-way thing than that. ‘Consume’ somehow suggests a passive ‘being consumed by’. With this particular project the interaction is closer to a form of exploration, a shared experience. That could manifest itself in a shuffled playlist, a DJ set, a thought, a memory, the impulse to move, to stay still, a sound-tracked kiss, a walk, all of these being both the work itself and the creation of further work.

You eschew biographical information as patten, do you feel that back stories and contextual information are detrimental to certain artists?

The decision to keep a certain amount of biographical detail out of the public sphere was driven by an aim to let the project exist without any excess, unnecessary material that could get in between it and people at the other side. It’s a generous intention to really allow the material to become entirely owned by people in their lives, rather than it centering in a closed way around another person out there in the world – the person, or people who made it.

How is it being at home on Warp? Are you influenced by the artists on Warp?

Warp’s a very good example of something that’s easy to forget about culture, new ideas, history and shifting values. The label is looked at as an institution nowadays, as a classic, a prime example of something important, enduring and of strong socio-cultural value.

What you have to remember though is that Warp has become that by sticking to it’s own stubbornly self-governed trajectory, regardless of mass opinion and micro-trends. It’s become that by being strongly focused on creating new worlds rather than being restricted by that which already exists. New worlds instead of those safely sanctioned by the immediate present. It’s a laudable attitude and their history and present is filled with artists sharing that drive.

We see this across all cultural forms. Walking through a museum, flicking through a book, these are the objects, images and ideas we are faced with. Work that re-framed reality with new possibilities that couldn’t be unseen once brought into being. The unimaginable turned second-nature. It’s important to remember that today’s classic was often yesterday’s stubborn anomaly.

In the same vein, what influences you to create art? Are there any particular concepts or cultural ideas that you identify with?

It’s hard to think of something that doesn’t find its way into the project somehow – even that which is missing has a clear presence in the very fact of its absence. It seems important to remain as open as possible to engaging with the world in as full a way as can be.

In that sense, there’s no distinction between the effect that the shadows on a briefly seen wall can have, the effect of a single sentence in a conversation with an old friend, the glance of a stranger from a hundred year old photograph, or the effect of seeing ice in a glass as it ducks in and out of liquid. Life is extremely short after all. Why would we choose to close off from anything? To close off to so much seems such a waste.

Given that realization, it’s just no longer an option.

Late last year you tweeted a link to an article on the Ship of Theseus (and favourited the brilliant Sugababes analogy tweet). Do you ever think that patten could be replaced completely and still remain patten in the future? Essentially, could you do what Sugababes did?!

We are all living Theseus’s Paradox year by year as our cells die, exchanged for new ones, our bodies morph radically, our ideas shift and develop, as do our lives, the cities we live in and the world that they are a part of. Fixity is an illusion, and all is changing constantly. It’s an incredible thing to realise.

patten headlines the ESTOILE NAIAINT LP launch on 16 April at London’s Concrete with Sculpture, Lee Gamble, The Cyclist and Felicita as well as Warp and Kaleidoscope DJs

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