Despite a number of stand-out releases (The Melvins, Ennio Morricone, Mark Lanegan, Zu, Dalek, Circus Devils, BEAK>, Trevor Dunn) with much of what’s released on Mike Patton’s own Ipecac label, it feels like the story is Patton himself. Between Tomahawk, Peeping Tom, Fantomas and Mondo Cane, plus numerous guest appearances, solo albums, collaborative works and even the latest Faith No More album, Patton has very much made this imprint his home.
Interest in Patton too is likely a little higher than usual too, as having spent years and years growing weirder and crankier (hopping from a Maldoror to a Mit Gas, from a Lovage to a Laborintus II, or even a John Zorn collaboration to the soundtrack of Crank 2: High Voltage), Patton returned to Faith No More for the excellent Sol Invictus LP in 2015. After touring the world yet again with one of the best and most ambitious rock bands of all time, he unleashed the bizarre but beautifully accessible Nevermen album with Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio) and Doseone. This was a rare moment of commercial clarity from one of music’s greatest anti-heroes and where he goes next is always something of interest.
So, despite Norwegian multi-instrumentalist Kaada’s sterling reputation and stunning talents, this LP will likely be approached by most as a Mike Patton LP. And it is and it isn’t. To quote Patton himself on their gorgeous 2005 Kaada/Patton Live concert film: “I think it’s time for a round of applause for the composer, Mr. John Kaada. It’s his world: we just live in it.” John Erik Kaada’s unique and eclectic work has spanned three decades, ranging from electronic anti-pop to classical, his talents have even even translated themselves into celebrated international filmwork. And while very few people can perform and create like Patton can, Kaada is the star of Bacteria Cult, his arrangements and compositions are wildly original and tremendously atmospheric.
The album is often fantastically visual, even cinematic, 'Red Rainbow' creeps like the theme to a classic Spy feature, 'Black Albino' has the grit and triumph of a Morricone Western score, while the stuttering 'A Burnt Out Case' sounds like a walk in a park, on the edge of hell. That is not to say that the album does not at points veer into dissonance and confusion but Kaada and Patton successfully lead their listeners through the album’s strange terrain.
This follows 2004’s Romances LP, which at the time would have been considered one of Patton’s less eccentric releases. The progression from one album to the other is subtle but substantial, both sound minimal and slight but where Romances sounded like a broken pop record, Bacteria Cult sounds more like classical music eating itself. This is far from a lyrical album, with Patton performing more as an instrument than as a singer.
It’s true that there’s nothing on here quite so moving as 2004’s 'Seule' and those lured back into Patton’s world by the reformed Faith No More, Nevermen or even the latest Tomahawk album may be a little thrown by this less immediately rewarding collaboration - but at eight songs and 33 minutes, Bacteria Cult is a pretty manageable walk on the weird side.