Mike Patton: A Perfect Place


One artist shouldn't have this much talent. It's dangerous. One of these days somebody's going to get hurt.

Review by Gregory S. Burkart

If the name Mike Patton doesn't leap out at you, it shouldn't take you long to connect to one of this man's innumerable musical projects over the past two decades. Although he was probably known to the majority of MTV watchers during the late '80s and early '90s as frontman for Faith No More, Patton's tentacles of talent have slithered far and wide before, during and since that band's successful run ? as founder of the deranged avant-rock collective Mr. Bungle, the alternative metal combo Tomahawk, the eclectic outfit Fantomas, and the recently formed file-swapping supergroup Peeping Tom. But that's only the visible tip of this musical iceberg ? Mike's been heavily involved behind the scenes with scores of other talented musicians and producers, including The Melvins, Sepultura, Dan the Automator and Dillinger Escape Plan to name just a few.

With a track record like that, it's actually kind of astonishing that Patton hadn't been commissioned to score a film until recently (excepting the independent film Pinion, which has yet to see release). The grand scale of many of his projects would seem to peg him as a natural for composing nightmarish but strangely beautiful sonic landscapes for a wide range of film genres ? just pop in the Fantomas CD Director's Cut (a collection of evil-tinged tunes based on film themes by Ennio Morricone, Jerry Goldsmith, Ray Mancini, John Barry and the like) and you'll be instantly convinced of his suitability. It's a shame it took so long for a filmmaker to help realize this potential, but I hope Patton's generous contribution to Derrick Scocchera's short film A Perfect Place marks the beginning of a new career path for which I think he's ideally suited. Now, thanks to a two-disc Special Edition set from Patton's own Ipecac Records, you can own both the film and the soundtrack for the price of the average CD.

The film itself, though little more than an atmospheric tone poem (weighing in at 24 minutes), A Perfect Place is still a semi-precious gem of a movie, and moves so briskly I found myself wishing it could be expanded to feature length. The film stars genre favorites Bill Moseley (The Devil's Rejects) and Mark Boone Junior (30 Days of Night) as bickering pals who find themselves in the undesirable situation of having to dispose of a third friend's body in a remote location ? a conundrum further complicated by the fact that neither man has a car, forcing them to ask a favor from an elderly neighbor.

If this sounds like the starting point for an elaborate game of twists, turns, deception and circumstance, please note my earlier mention of the film's running time; we don't really have a chance to go there. It's a short trip, but it's still a lot of fun ? Moseley and Boone are so comfortable in their roles as clueless, slightly unhinged losers that they make the simplest dialogue immensely entertaining, and the widescreen black & white cinematography from Hiro Narita gives the proceedings a rich postmodern Noir feel (think Jim Jarmusch meets David Lynch) for which Patton's frantic jazz score creates a perfect backdrop.

Used widely through the film as both score and source music (on various radios, record players, etc.), Patton's contributions weigh in at 35 minutes ? a bit longer than the film itself. The structure and feel of the music as sequenced on the CD is quite different than its use in the film proper, and the tracks are mixed, edited, and arranged differently. As a result, it becomes a work unto itself, with a size and scope far greater than the project for which it was conceived... and in this form, I rank it among the artist's most amazing work to date.

The more straightforward score elements, including the opening and title tracks, the main theme reprise ?Another Perfect Place? and album closer ?A Perfect End,? reveal the influence of those composers Patton previously honored in Director's Cut ? particularly in the use of catchy character motifs and inventive variations on a single theme (the Morricone influence is strongest here), but it's in cuts like the hyperactive ?Batucada? and completely bizarre ?Catholic Tribe? that traditional arrangements are violently derailed by inspired electronic effects, bursts of eccentric percussion (courtesy of Mr. Bungle drummer Danny Heifetz) and some of the strangest musical juxtapositions (tabla loops, finger-pops and cathedral organ?) I've heard in a movie soundtrack. Though they seem to emerge from a familiar cinematic place, Patton's arrangements tend to throw sonic curve-balls at your face with little or no warning.

The source music ? much of which features Patton's vocals ? is equally idiosyncratic, ranging from tiny snippets heard on various radios used in the film, to the full-blown, flamboyant pop number ?A Perfect Twist,? the chintzy swing crooner ?A Dream of Roses,? and the eerie aria ?Il Cupo Dolore,? which reveals more of the operatic territory Patton has been exploring recently.

My hands-down favorite, ?A Little Poker Tomorrow Night?? synthesizes many of the elements I mentioned above... but in the end it's 100% Patton in its execution. Featuring a distorted baby-voice lullaby theme backed by gargantuan orchestra & synthesizer chords, it's a totally creepy and savagely beautiful piece that quickly joined the ranks of my favorite Patton works. If you want to preview a fair portion of this track, check out the trailer for the film online.

The music struck me as so much grander in the context of the album than in the film, I'd consider the DVD in this set to be more of an accompaniment to the music rather than the other way around (although I'd see anything with Moseley and Boone as the main characters). But no matter how you weigh it, it's well worth the modest price. And if you're a Mike Patton fan like me, you can't afford not to have this one in your collection.