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'Laborintus II'


nik alexander

OK so Mike Patton must = versatile. I will check if they reference him in the dictionary later, although probably a thesaurus would better cover the options. Given his involvement across such a huge musical spectrum unhindered by prejudice means – what the heck has Mr Patton got himself into and what is he inviting us to listen to now? A certain something that you know will be uneasily defined (if at all) and offered by a musician who is also not easily defined – why would he wish to be?

mike patton and ictus ensemble laborintus II

Having mentioned uniqueness, Laborintus II in this production is performed in three voices and there has been a trend in 'voices' and voice prominent music in the past few years. Firstly there has been Soriah who has toured with Dan Reed then Billy Connolly show casing Innuit throat singing on one of his travel documentaries and even Homer Simpson encountering throat singing with an Innuit while he searches for an epiphany. All this and not to mention Mike Patton's own extensive different expressions of vocalisation.

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So, why am I bringing this up before getting down to the review of 'Laborintus II'? To prepare you for music where the voice is the main engagement with your ear, heart and soul: that's why. Also these are the most mainstream experiences so far that I can think of to prepare you and even then, it probably won't due to the differentiation of the vocals on this offering. Yet be in no doubt that the vocals are something you will talk about; they are ethereal and beautiful.

Mike Patton's version of 'Laborintus II' is "a tribute to pioneering composer Luciano Berio"... whose creations in music involve the fusion and collusion of classical, jazz, folk, pop and electronic genres to deliver – well, something totally unique. Berio created 'Laborintus II' in 1965 to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Dante's arrival to this world. So what we have here is an updated version, true to its soul as determined by Berio with a few new touches, such as Mike Patton as the narrator with vocals provided by Nederlands Kemerkoor and music performed by the Ictus Ensemble.

This production tells us that 'Laborintus II' "highlights the timelessness of love and mourning", although I have a basic education in classical music and my favourite jazz artist is Abdullah Ibrahim, I am a newbie to 'Laborintus II' and I am looking forward to this.

On to Part One, 11 minutes

My first impressions are that straight away I get the "mourning", it kind of hits your heart straight away and if truth be told I don't quite recover. I am not requiring a chair to sit on but my heart does get that someone is communicating directly with it. I am not sure if this is what Mike and his colleagues intended.

I have to re-listen a few times but I can settle into it with a little investment of time on my part. On the subsequent listenings I find I can pick out recurring themes, particularly one phase where a flautist sounds fleetingly as familiar as the old Colombo theme when a major development was pending in the following scene – its not unpleasant and it is nice to find an element of familiarity.

These musical episodes were created within a similar musical timeframe so it isn't surprising to find themes from the 60s here, nor is it an insult! However, part one really is quite beautiful.

Part Two, 15 minutes

The second part is disappointing as it sounds a bit of mixing it up with R-2–D-2 contributions blended with Mike Patton's narration sounding very severe – as if a visit to old newsreel archives for speeches of 1930s and 1940s war time political leaders to cut and paste into the music score has been exploited here. I know it hasn't but that is what it sounds like.

I am less keen on part two and I try a few more listens. I notice on YouTtube there are plenty uploads of parts one and three but can't find any of part two so maybe I am not alone in my preferences of this although – I might get there in time...

Part Three, 7 minutes

This sounds a little more disjointed, clearly with intent, in the beginning but there is a percussion phase which will fill any Metalhead's heart with happiness! Mike's narration is clear and there is a jazz accent in this section demonstrated through a blending of oboe, clarinet and further enhanced by an occasional flute. It is very listenable.


There is a blending of a few different musical expressions here – mainly classical with jazz and the vocals are very similar in some places to the folk music/Celtic 'Lament' style. I don't hear any electronic/synthesiser/pop in this offering – its OK – you can come out from behind the sofa!

Classical jazz with lament style vocalisation sounds an apt summary. Therefore I have a dilemma; should I recommend it to you? Firstly this does not by any stretch of the imagination integrate into the rock or Metal genres so be clear; if you like visiting music in what may be an unfamiliar genre then give it a go.

I do really like Part one and three. It is not mainstream in any way but it does engage the imagination which is positive. It is most definitely not something that would appear on X Factor or any of the pathetic excuses for suppression of true talent and exploitation of naiveté on a Saturday night; it is original and true to its creative soul.

I am content to have my appreciation of musical expression enhanced and thank you to Mike Patton and his colleagues for sharing this.



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