Pattern Is Movement
Label: Hometapes Records
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Labels as novel as Hometapes are about as rare as buffalo nickels. The Portland, Oregon-based label cares as much about their indie rock album artwork as much as they care about finding that next imaginative band. Pattern Is Movement’s fourth record and second for Hometapes, All Together, is treated with a wood grain motif, echoing a series of black and white photos included in one of two pockets in the packaging. The photos (depicting, among other things, nature scenes and early-20th century group portraits) were said to be found on the street by multi-instrumentalist Andrew Thiboldeaux’s brother.
This packaging is only the beginning of All Together’s quirkiness. “Bird” is the first and perhaps best track to coalesce the album’s sound; immediately, the listener is transported to some wacky melange of time periods and musical styles. Pattern is in the band’s name for a reason: repetitive playing by a myriad of instruments that repeats and repeats before turning inside out and shooting off into one more sonic tangent completely unlike the first. “Bird”‘s percussion tumbles along while toy-like bells plink, keyboards purr, and Thiboldeaux sings, “clean and white/ Keep your feathers” like a character out of a forgotten live-action Disney musical. The closest thing to compare his singing to is an ecstatic, less creepy David Thomas on Pere Ubu’s “Codex.” As for the record’s sensibility, my mind wants to make a comparison between Pattern is Movement and ’60s one-hit-oddball New Vaudeville Band, yet the bizarre anachronistic juxtapositions of “Winchester Cathedral” don’t go far enough in describing them.
Thiboldeaux and drummer Chris Ward met as youths while attending an Evangelical camp, bonding over their shared love for Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. Exposed to music via the church and its musical equipment, their output is not what one normally expects upon learning a musician honed their craft in the pews. Soul and R&B were born of the intensely physical spirituality of scores of African American singers but in Pattern Is Movement, the white Evangelical movement has produced utter secular weirdness. Some have described the two-piece’s sound as math rock, a term that makes me think of Turing Machine or any Saturday afternoon at a Guitar Center and I don’t think it does them justice. All Together is a cerebral flight of fancy that doesn’t sound born in a house of worship or any other houses for that matter.
This album best serves as sort of a palate cleanser, a sorbet for people who compulsively consume music. An avid indie rock fan will find much to appreciate here, with Thibaldeaux’s layers and layers of instruments twinkling and soaring over Ward’s rhythms that often turn on a dime, offering a glistening, melodic sound imbued with pure-of-heart (and possibly ironic) vocals. However, with so much going on within each song (read: no time for hooks), they are every bit as forgettable as individual units as they are impressive. The included vintage photos do help to anchor the songs in the listener’s reality, keeping them from floating solely in the duo’s imaginations. I can’t say there’s much crossover appeal for these guys. Perhaps there would be if they’d manage to harness their imaginative power into concise melodic statements. However, that would be going against everything that makes All Together interesting.
by Chris Middleman