6 Albums that Helped Shaped the Sound of Pattern Language’s “Total Squaresville”
– Chris Frain, June 2017
As much as I’d like to think so, musical compositions do not spring forth fully-formed from my mind as the products of divine inspiration. We all carry around our bits and pieces of music that have left an impression on us over the years and, hopefully, they interact while we work and sleep and do chores and eventually provide inspiration for what we’re attempting to create. Sometimes this comes easily and all we need to do is get out of the way, and I was fortunate enough to have this experience (mostly) during the production of the “Total Squaresville” album.
The following is a list of albums that, in my opinion, were unconciously erecting the scaffolding and load-bearing walls for my tracks. As I’m listening back to the album, I am often surprised to find the source of an idea years removed from the last active listening it had received, but nevertheless I was happy to greet it like an old frend. So, in no particular order…
Kraftwerk, Radioactivity (1975): This is not even my favorite Kraftwerk album (1981’s Computer World holds that distinction), but the clean motorik beats and strong melodies of tracks like “Antenna” and “Airwaves” certainly informed several pieces on the album. Before they became 100% Man-Machines, there was a certain naivete and lightness in Kraftwerk’s music that still appeals to me and provides some relief from the preponderance of strum-und-drang usually found in electronic music.
Hologram Teen, Mars Angst EP (2016): “Total Squaresville” was started with the intention of creating an electro-space-disco follow-up to the Happy Robots label release from ex-Stereolab keyboardist Morgane L’Hote. I had been following her early work and it got me to thinking about creating more beat-heavy music that was specifically harkening back to the sounds of the late 1970s and very early 1980s, and when this EP was released I was more determined than ever to make that happen. As it turns out, I’m not the American Giorgio Moroder, but the spirit of the Hologram Teen EP is still in the DNA of certain moments on the album.
John Carpenter, Assault on Precinct 13 Soundtrack (1976): Carpenter had a knack for creating the ominous analog synth bass line in his early scores, but the main theme from his feature-length debut is the most unsettling iteration of the “John Carpenter sound.” I still play my own version of this piece during soundchecks to make sure everything is working properly, and it sometimes gets a stronger reaction than my own material! For extra creepiness, check out the version of this theme entitled “Ice Cream Man on Edge.”
Art of Noise, Who’s Afraid of the Art of Noise? (1984): I vividly remember hearing the Art of Noise’s “Beatbox” in my youth – their use of sampling and manipulating audio was such a departure from the usual radio fare that I was convinced they were time-travelers sent from the future to warn us. Of course now the sound of a lot of their Fairlight-driven tracks place them immediately in the mid-1980s, but one track in particular – “Moments in Love” – is a gorgeous composition that I always mentally conjure whenever I see footage of something moving gracefully in slow-motion. The piece has a wonderful structure, along with a moment of disturbing tension-building absurdity to make sure you didn’t get too comfortable.
Cluster, Zuckerzeit (1974): I only discovered this album relatively recently during a deep-dive into all things “Krautrock,” but this album stood to me for both its rhythmic complexity and its catchy melodies. Co-produced by Michael Rother (on break from Neu! but before forming Harmonia with the members of Cluster), the album contains tracks that are more angular (at times, even playful) and beat-driven than on previous albums. The opener, “Hollywood,” is based on a mesmerizing melodic riff structured on 6 measures of 6/4 time that is sure to give your drummer fits.
Thomas Dolby, The Golden Age of Wireless (1982): Certainly everyone is familiar with the hit “Blinded by Science,” but it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of what is otherwise extremely cohesive debut. Sure, there’s lots of synths and Simmons drums, but I’ve yet to hear many synthwave artists draw directly from this album the way Jan Hammer or Harold Faltermeye are referenced. Maybe it’s because this album (with the exception of “Blinded by Science”) creates a mood that puts you right in the middle of a British winter – it just feels cold and damp and bleak (note to self: do not write and record all my albums during the winter months). Even this late addition to the 2009 remaster, “Urban Tribal,” reflects this mood exquisitely:
“Total Squaresville,” the debut mini-album from Pattern Language, is available on June 16 from Happy Robots Records. Available here (https://www.happyrobots.co.uk/botshop).