Fantomas

Responsible for one of the most eclectic catalogs of recent memory, Fantomas return with Suspended Animation, a thirty-track set that both celebrates the art of cartoon composition and the many reasons to behold the fourth month of our calendar, April (with one piece for each day of the month). Who knew that April is subtitled “national humor and anxiety month”? Who knew that the dreaded April 15 was actually titled “That Sucks Day” or that April 24 marks the beginning of National Karaoke Week? Leave it to the creative minds behind Fantomas to enlighten us to the many forgotten holidays throughout April.

The brainchild of Mike Patton, Fantomas is an anti-hero from a series of pre-WWI French crime novels, sometimes dubbed the “lord of terror.” Rounding out the ensemble are Buzz Osborne on guitar (Melvins), Trevor Dunn on bass (Mr. Bungle, Trevor Dunn’s Trio Convulsant) and Dave Lombardo on drums (Slayer).

Fantomas’ three previous releases have regaled listeners with a sci-fi homage (Fantomas, 1999), a celebration of the best in film composition (Director’s Cut, 2001) and a one song album (Delirium Cordia, 2004). As Rolling Stone said in their review of Delirium Cordia: “One epic seventy-four minute noise-rock song. What’s not to like?” Now with Suspended Animation, the quartet delves headlong into a new and recently unexplored genre... cartoon music. Recorded in the Spring of 2003, during the same sessions as surgically precise Delirium Cordia, Suspended Animation is the yang to Delirium Cordia’s ying. Bright and loose, Patton describes the new album as “nursery rhymes, cartoon sound effects and choppy arrangements.”

As with all Ipecac releases, the artwork and packaging are just as integral to unfolding the full story as the piece of music, Suspended Animation is no different. Perhaps the most intricate packaging to date, the thirty page booklet/calendar is illustrated by Asian pop cartoonist Yoshimoto Nara. In a recent San Francisco Bay Guardian feature, Nara’s influential style was described as “cartoonlike images and sculptures of kids and puppies – sporting world-weary adult expressions, major attitude and salty vocabularies.” The paper went on to say that Nara’s pieces “are among the most cutting edge of Japanese exports in the contemporary art world.”

ALBUM REVIEW: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT

Fantomas stand with their feet planted horizontally across the soft dimensions of your face, warping the shape of your skull and shoulders with their off-color explosions. With expectations withering on the floor, leaving a viscous stink, nothing in their hands is concrete. As a follow-up to their 30-song debut, throughout which vocalist Mike Patton never formed a single actual word, Fantomas offer these 16 new creations, all realigned versions of film soundtracks, ranging from the notorious theme to Rosemary's Baby to the obscure and peculiar wank of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. While there are many similarities to the dispersed flip-flopping styles of their earlier work, The Director's Cut breaks new ground with a thick jagged axe. First, most noticeably, are the even more varied vocal stylings; Patton's sweet croon on "Experiment in Terror" is nothing you've heard before from him on a Fantomas recording, along with many of the other croaking, spitting, pissing, screaming noises he excretes. Yet another testament to the unabashed genius of Mike Patton and his co-conspirators, leaving those caught up in the rapture with mouths even more full with thick drool.

review by Blake Butler, AMG