Photo: A.F. Cortes
Evan Patterson cut his teeth as both a guitar player and bassist in the Louisville hardcore scene; he’s a veteran by any definition. But in recent years, he has began to appear in more varied musical environments, often as a multi-instrumentalist. His work includes an important supporting role for Emma Ruth Rundle, and as the main man behind Jaye Jayle. His new album, Prisyn, is a collaboration with Ben Chisholm (White Horse, Revelator, Chelsea Wolfe) and is out today on Sargent House.
Prisyn was composed during an eleven-week tour Patterson embarked on with the hardcore band Young Widows. He composed skeletal songs on his iPhone using the Garageband app, and then sent them to Chisholm for additional electronic layering. After considering several options for vocalists, Patterson decided to sing the songs himself, using lyrics based on his journal entries, poems and story fragments. The result is a wild and hallucinogenic journey through the late night of his mind.
Jaye Jayle combines several intertwined strains of electronic music and postpunk, weaving each element into a coherent whole. Album opener “A Cold Wind” is an excellent example of the approach. The track constructs a backdrop of understated electronic beats, yet the slow groove also brings to mind Nick Cave at his most sultry. As the track progresses, a menacing synth line adds a shade of EBM to the proceedings. Other tracks, such as “Don’t Blame the Rain” and “Making Friends,” also move in this direction without ever fully committing. “Blueberries” even hints at the sort of deconstructed balladry Skinny Puppy employed on Last Rights.
Meanwhile, the rest of the album swings and swaggers with more of a postpunk attitude, although focusing still on the aforementioned desolate, late-night vibe. The exact style is hard to pin down, but one can hear the ghosts of Cabaret Voltaire and Suicide floating around there somewhere.
“Guntime” tells the story of Patterson having an Uzi pointed at him by a car full of teenagers in Paris, yet the mood is conveyed with a slow burn, like the aftermath of the incident as it dawns on one what just happened. The songs “Synthetic Prison” and “Last Drive” serve as soundtrack-like interludes building up to the more harrowing dirges of “The River Spree” and “From Louisville.” The latter brings the album to a conclusion, and culminates with all the combined sound and vocal alchemy that has preceded it.
What is perhaps most fascinating is Patterson’s vocal delivery, especially given that he originally wanted this to be an instrumental album, or utilize a guest vocalist. The most immediate influence is the aforementioned Nick Cave, but one can detect hints of a gruffer David Gahan. There are even moments, such as on “The River Spree,” where he seems to channel a grizzled blues or country singer, minus any twang.
Jaye Jayle’s previous album, 2018’s No Trail and Other Unholy Paths, while a compelling document, possessed a more conventional approach, dark indie rock with occasional conjurations of Krautrock. Prisyn is a more minimal release, but is more intensely focused. The mood conjured is sinister even when understated, and it seems like it would work as a soundtrack to shows like Twin Peaks or True Detective. But knowing this is constructed from Patterson’s own varied writings deepens the impact and reminds us in some way that the truth can be stranger, if not scarier, than fiction.