Prisyn is an album that deals in opposites. On one hand, it is an expression of Evan Patterson’s artistic freedom, in the sense that it is quite far removed from Jaye Jayle’s previous works both in terms of sound and creative process. On the other hand, that creative process was linked to circumstances of enforced restriction and confinement. The album’s title itself – Prisyn – alludes to a ‘synthetic prison’ according to Patterson himself. The work was conceived while Patterson was on an extended tour. He began to compose music in these limited conditions using just his iPhone. Instead of fleshing out or reworking the pieces with the usual Jaye Jayle band, Patterson enlisted Ben Chisholm’s (Chelsea Wolfe) help to embellish and produce the songs. The result is an album of primarily electronic music: tense, brooding and claustrophobic. But, in the spirit of opposites, there is a counterpoint to the cold synth textures in the form of Patterson’s deep and rich voice. As he sings in the very first line of opener ‘A Cold Wind’, ‘The darkness meets the lightness / Or rather the lightness meets the darkness’.
The music is difficult to categorise, hinting at industrial and trip-hop music and recalling bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Suicide, and Hide. However, there are also references to Jazz, noise, and ambient styles. Frighteningly deep bass tones bloom underneath freakish and disorientating arpeggiator patterns, mellotron-esque pads and jittery beats. However, these often nightmarish robotic textures provide the backdrop for something altogether more human. Patterson’s lyrics often tell true stories from the road which come across almost like diary entries. ‘The River Spree’ tells a tale of getting lost in Berlin late at night in an altered state, and ‘Guntime’ recounts a drive through Paris during which the Jaye Jayle van had a gun pointed at it from the window of another vehicle. The juxtaposition of Patterson’s sometimes half-spoken stories with the bleak soundscapes underneath serves to give the album a filmic quality. In fact, Patterson states that the music functions almost as ‘a film score for my life’. The marriage of music, words and vocal delivery is evocative and abundant in imagery. As the album progresses the music largely becomes increasingly angular and discordant. It feels as though Patterson is really throwing caution to the wind and enjoying getting lost in experimentation. ‘Blueberries’ is delightfully weird with its an off-kilter chord progression, and ‘I Need You’ is travel sickness-inducing with its pitch-shifting screeches and glitch drums. That’s not to say that there is nothing to hang on to melodically. Throughout the record Patterson creates little hooks with his repetition of key lyrics. The chorus of ‘I Need You’, in spite of the aforementioned weirdness it sits on top of, is deliciously catchy.
This album is not an ‘easy’ listen, and it won’t please everyone. Its strength is in its ability to marry the seemingly disparate and, in doing so, to create something genuinely new and different. Prisyn is distant and robotic, yet it is infused with humanity and storytelling. It is harsh and disorientating, yet Patterson’s melodies are steeped in the blues. It is a departure from Jaye Jayle’s usual sound, yet it still has Evan Patterson’s fingerprints all over it. It is the product of restricted circumstances, yet it represents a new and rich creative direction. Importantly, it doesn’t really sound quite like anything else.
If you are prepared to give some time and attention to what Patterson himself calls ‘a very odd record’, and if you are interested in music which is genuinely progressive and evades categorisation, then you may well find Prisyn, ironically, to be a freeing and rewarding listen.
Prisyn is available now on Sargent House. Purchase here:
7 / 10