Last month, I wrote about the Boulder, CO-based multi-instrumenalist Chris Frain. And although he’s arguably best known as a keyboardist in indie pop act The Giranimals and the bassist in power prog rcock trio Tanuki, Frain can trace the origins of his solo recording project Pattern Language from both his time as a member of The Giranimals, where he developed a love of the sound of the Minimoog and Mellotron synthesizer — and from a chance viewing of the BBC4 documentary Synth Britannia, which focused on the British New Wave musicians, who took the synthesizer to the mainstream. Now. as you may recall, “By The Time We Get There,” the first single off Frain’s Total Squaresville mini-album, his sound is largely inspired by Kraftwerk, Thomas Dolby and others — in particular Autobahn, Trans Europe Express and The Man Machine-era Kraftwerk, as the Boulder-based multi-instrumentalist develops a deceptively simple melody and pairs it with a motorik groove; but on repeated listens, the track revealed subtle twists and turns that hint at the material’s improvised nature. In fact, as Frain explained in press notes “Each one of the pieces on this album were started from some very basic idea about sound or structure or primary influence and yet I was surprised by all the twists and turns they took through the stages of composition, recording and mixing. It’s still fun to listen to each piece and how they took on a life of its own to become something new and unexpected — even to me.”
The album’s latest single “Le Choc de Etoiles,” continues in a similar fashion as its predecessor as shimmering, arpeggio” synth cascades are paired with shuffling beats to create a jaunty melody that nods at Kraftwerk, John Carpenter soundtracks and Harold Faltermeyer’s “Axel F” — or in other words, Frain’s latest composition nods at the seemingly futuristic sound of the analog synthesizer’s heyday without being soulless mimicry; in fact, the song possesses a melody that feels both carefully and deliberately composed while actually being improvised.
The recently released video is fittingly retro-futuristic and reveals a gleaming, efficient future — but at the same time, there’s a hint that rot and dysfunction are just underneath the surface.