Evan Patterson has spent the past two decades playing in loud, intense guitar bands, building on a foundation of hardcore with psychedelia, post-rock, post-punk and industrial. He cut his teeth and cut some essential records as part of the Louisville hardcore scene in the early ’00s as a member of The National Acrobat, Breather Resist and Black Cross. With Young Widows, that blistering punk rock intensity remained, but it did so beneath layers of noise rock abrasion, heavier effects and expansive song structures. Only with Jaye Jayle did Patterson finally shed some of the aggression and raw power of his previous bands, instead favoring a kind of surrealist darkness inspired by Nick Cave and David Lynch alike. It took a different form and had a different sound, but at the end of the day—particularly onstage—Jaye Jayle was still a loud, intense guitar band, and very good one at that.
With Prisyn, Jaye Jayle‘s third album, that’s not really true anymore. It’s still a captivating, often stunning project, but you’d be hard pressed to point to many moments here that resemble guitars of any sort. Instead there are synths, there are noises. There are textures and mists and haze. At times the record pulses with the punishing BPMs of industrial dance, and at others it feels shapeless, an oblique fog that reflects only how you perceive it. It sounds like nothing else in Patterson’s catalog, because it was created essentially as a long distance project between him and producer Ben Chisholm (Chelsea Wolfe), which grew out of an initial project to score one of Wolfe’s fashion shows. The two would send ideas back and forth while Patterson was on tour, slowly letting sketches of songs crystallize in the downtime between moments of playing rock music in different cities. As such it feels like a document of distance and disorientation, a slightly lost and sleep-deprived tour diary set to bombastic electronic soundscapes.
The acid-goth atmosphere of 2018’s No Trail and Other Unholy Paths hasn’t been replaced so much as it’s been altered. A track like the cyber-lounge strut of “Guntime,” a bizarre retelling of a moment when teenagers pointed an uzi at the band’s tour van, wouldn’t have been out of place on that record, but here it’s given a sleek and shiny exoskeleton. The most thrilling moments are the truly explosive ones, however, such as when Patterson is drowned out by woozy synth-goth pulses in “Don’t Blame the Rain,” or the apocalyptic cabaret of “I Need You,” which feels more Foetus than Nine Inch Nails. This isn’t, after all, EBM for its own sake, but something more abstract and artful, and often more richly inviting in spite of how insular and strange it frequently feels.
Prisyn is littered with lines like “I’m in Berlin” and “getting in a taxi cab/going to the hotel bar,” stream-of-consciousness reflections of where Patterson probably very literally was while he was writing these lines. The somewhat disorienting feeling of being in a different country, in a time zone nine hours off from what you’re used to, is palpable throughout, and yet there’s an irony about the time of its release. These are words written from a time before quarantine, and yet the music they’re connected to feels so claustrophobic and tense. The experience isn’t that of listening to a rock record, more like watching an art film—the narrative is there to dissect, but the aesthetics are what make it interesting.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.