This year marks 10 years of AE Paterra’s solo project, Majeure, a cinematic krautrock side-mission away from Zombi, his project with Steve Moore. Even in its own lane, Majeure is a profound musical project and Paterra’s latest album, Mass Flashback, reinforces that.
Whereas Zombi exists largely in the realm of prog, Majeure allows Paterra to dive into the depth and breadth 1970s krautrock and 1980s synth-centered film scores. The grandiosity of Tangerine Dream and the ambient tenderness of Ashra abound on Mass Flashback, a record powered by a healthy dose of propulsive acoustic drums and drum machines and an array of richly nuanced analogue synths. Horror segments abound, too, with passages that can just as easily recall Fabio Frizzi as anything that spawned from Manuel Göttsching.
“Longing, Love, Loss” opens the album with a run of dark arps and a Brad Fiedel-recalling melody, soon joined by what sounds like a Boss drum machine. Paterra builds on that with dynamic layers of bliss that all combine to create a killer opening theme for a putative film.
The title cut opens with an ambient sculpture of synthscapes and sound design — an icy blast of ablution. Then acoustic drums, a synth bass, and a distorted lead kick in, creating a triumphant statement of elevated consciousness, like a krautrock version of Enigma. The scuzzy strut of the live drums is a welcome shock to the system, because the drums show us there’s still humanity amid the machines.
“Sun Dog Blues,” a high point of the record and the title of which reflects its character, offers a minimalist foreboding that invokes John Carpenter. You can feel the subversiveness of the inquisitive eye, splashing sunlight on the dark secrets hidden beneath the sheen. Paterra has a particularly potent penchant for bringing an engaging poignancy to his Majeure project, stripping away any artifice that would otherwise hamper a lesser experiment. “Sun Dog” is a formidable example of this. “Face Dancer” continues that trajectory, ratcheting up the connection and immediacy with hauntingly optimistic synth vocal samples and an eerily uplifting synth-pad chord progression. The kinetic drum work — Paterra is a powerhouse on the skins — cultivates an absolutely heightened sense of trepidation that is nevertheless grounded in hope.
The album isn’t all big cuts, though. “Prescience Acquired” is a contemplative helping of abstract bells that flitter about like lightning bugs, underneath which a heavy industrial drum array stomps around like Trent Reznor on The Fragile. This would make for a perfectly terrifying cue in a Blumhouse film. It’s a haunting mind fuck. Album closer “Universal Out” maintains the spirit of the abstract experimentations of the aforementioned, while retaining the grand scope of pieces like the title cut. One could consider it the menacing yet hopeful climax cue of a beautiful but disturbing sci-fi horror picture.
Zooming out, Pittsburgh-based Paterra has provided the world with an important and engaging celebration of Majeure’s 10th anniversary. While more restrained than past releases such as last year’s Timespan Redux or 2015’s Union of Worlds, this time around we get a healthy dose of grit, a deep sense of hope laced with foreboding, and a rather euphoric prism through which to view our horrors. What a fantastic experience it is.
Mass Flashback releases today. You can pick up the album in digital and physical forms via Holodeck Records.
(Feature Photo of AE Paterra by Essentials Creative.)