Personnel: Yi Yang (violin); Johannes Martens (cello); Borre Molstad (trombone, tuba); Kenneth Ryland (double bass).
Recording information: Fartein Valen, Stavanger; Wrongroom, Oslo.
The second studio collaboration from Norwegian composer and producer John Erik Kaada and Faith No More/Mr. Bungle/Fantômas frontman Mike Patton, Bacteria Cult filters the cinematic vignettes of 2004's Romances through a widescreen lens. Where the latter LP relied mostly on Kaada's evocative electronics for its foundation, Bacteria Cult pairs Patton's otherworldly croon with Norway's Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, and the results are stunning. A wordless, yet unceasingly evocative amalgam of dark, orphaned film music, lush chamber pop, and neo-classical-infused avant-garde, the eight-track set feels like one long piece that's been broken into snack-sized portions. Upon first listen, Patton's contributions seem subtle, but further investigation reveals how integral a role his voice plays. He's simply omnipresent, seamlessly shadowing the melody, adjusting to its nuances, and changing octaves on the fly -- closer "Fountain Gasoline" sees him stretching his elastic vocal cords to their very limits. The early half of Bacteria Cult, especially "Red Rainbow" and "Black Albino," invokes Danny Elfman at his most whimsical and Ennio Morricone at his most spaghetti drunk -- the latter cut owes more than a polite tip of the hat to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly's "Ecstasy of Gold." Elsewhere, "Peste Bubonica" manages to tease out elements of Nusrat-esque Qawwali before returning to the killing fields via the deep, reverberated, single-note twang of an electric guitar, while the aptly named "Papillon," all playfulness and light on top, is carried along by some seriously sinister undercurrents. Bacteria Cult needs a little time to get into your bloodstream before it can be reckoned with, but ultimately, it's an infection worth sweating through. ~ James Christopher Monger