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Mike Patton’s Luciano Berio’s Laborintus II was released on 3 July and has been receiving positive reviews. The record is certainly a Dante-ing challenge for the casual listener – an Amazon reviewer T. A. Daniel “Alex” accurately sums it up as “Experimental rock vocalist and pioneer Mike Patton has released an avant-garde poem from the 1960’s about the work of Inferno author Dante Alighieri that tries to communicate the authors life through allegories to the Bible, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and more” – but another wonderful showcase for Patton’s vision and vocals. I certainly wouldn’t listen to it on my own late at night but its scarily Satanic spoken word and chanting make for an otherwise compelling record even for non-jazz fans.
Online music bible Allmusic is effusive in it praise: “Presenting a piece of musical theater as a stand-alone work can be a bit difficult to grasp upon first listen; that said, it does reveal itself ultimately to be a very nearly dazzling endeavor that rewards patience mightily.”
Sputnik Music meanwhile states: “The vocals range from spoken word, to shrill soprano blasts. Between these two lies some often haunting moments, particularly during the first half of the introductory part. Silence is greatly used here, as it can be used as a wonderful tool to build tension. ”
PopMatters provides a hugely insightful review: “It tries to get us to completely rethink the categories we use to talk about music, and about using that music as a critique of social domination. But who is this music for? Is it for the adventurer in modern music? Yes. Is it for gloomy neo-Marxian critical theorists? Yep. Is it for teenage Faith No More fans? Sure, why not? It makes us open our eyes and our ears and our mouths and our noses to super mega proper musical imagination in a way that might even outwit the logic of late capitalism. Right on time, too. ”
While mxdwn reports that “Patton, fluent in the language, leads the proceedings, and he is in good voice here—or perhaps more appropriately: good voices. His beginning intonations of the Italian verses spook, while later he layers chants menacingly, and later still screams blisteringly before returning to an almost off-mic whisper that sounds like it could have been recorded in the hallway of the studio. ”
And Soundblab, giving appropriate equal billing to Patton’s partners the Ictus Ensemble, provide this wonderful passage in their review: “The record is released via Ipecac Records, a label Patton founded and now runs. This begs the question – does Mike Patton have a watch that stops time? Does he operate on 48 hour days? I struggle to mow the lawn and cook tea some days. Even more astonishing is the fact that Patton doesn’t ever dial it in either. Listen to this – on Laborintus II, Patton is in cahoots with Belgian dadaists the Ictus Ensemble. The record is their take on Luciano Berio’s composition from back in 1965, which is itself based on the poetry of Communist Dante scholar Edoardo Sanguineti. Patton isn’t just filling out his canon with stock poppycock. He’s taking on a piece of theatre which is essentially a critique of the commodification of the world. ”