Album Reviews

patten – Mirage FM

(555-5555) UK release date: 14 April 2023

Robot sounds meet a human’s artistic sensibilities in a rearrangement of AI-generated music – Luddites, look away now

patten - Mirage FM One of the captivating things about AI in 2023 – certainly the reason why the internet has been so obsessed with it recently – is its unpredictability. One moment it might answer a question at undergraduate level, the next it might get everyday facts wrong, and the same unpredictability runs through patten’s new LP. Mirage FM uses music ‘created’ by AI as its source material, with the results varying wildly but sharing the same hypnotic allure, like hold music for the twilight zone.

All these tracks have a lo-fi feel, the kind of sample rate that sounds like the music is half-submerged in water. Say is one of several tracks that play with meter in a disorienting way, so quavers and crotchets in one tempo become syncopated triplet rhythms in another, while Like Rain fuses the chords of an ’80s ballad with metallic clinking. Much of the record is unapologetically glitchy, but tracks like Alright and Trust thread their elements together like late-period J Dilla did with soul samples, and The Door’s coda must be the funkiest thing made by robots since Random Access Memories.

Walk With U is a helpful reminder that AI can’t rap as grime style percussion meets abstract noises that vaguely resemble rapid-fire syllables (“♦∇¡¼ γ⋅∧∧ ¤¶⊇õ »∂℘§ / √√¿⊕ ΩΓ∗¢ ◊Ð∇ð ∏½ζ™”), mimicking the tone like a baby learning to talk. It’s also not entirely surprising that Lightspeed’s contemplative tones and ticking rhythms are reminiscent of Oval, considering how sterile their music can be. Don’t Worry isn’t pleasant as such but is probably the most interesting tune on here, the notes congealing into microtonal clusters as something vital is lost in translation between human and machine.

In this brave new world the human input comes from prompts fed to the program – we are left to speculate what patten requested to produce these sounds. Was One “a mid-’90s RZA instrumental”, and was Forever “Lone-style speed garage”, or did the system merely alight on these cultural touchstones while realising a more impressionistic command? We don’t know, which speaks to the mystique around this new technology as well as the potential problems with accountability.

For a project operating on the cutting edge of cultural discourse, it’s surprisingly enjoyable. The brief runtimes and open-ended structures of these tracks present the material in its best light, and patten has made a fleshed out, thought-provoking record… or has he?

buy patten MP3s or CDs
Spotify patten on Spotify

More on patten
patten – Mirage FM