Dusty Patches - Newtok - Green
Newtok is a remote Alaska Native village situated on the Ningliq River, near the west coast of Alaska. Although a very remote and quiet place, Newtok has come face-to-face with climate change. Due to a combination of thawing permafrost, low levels of sea ice, and strong storms, the coastal land of Newtok is eroding dramatically. The village is currently in the process of relocating to a new site called Mertarvik, which will be safer from this climate change-caused erosion.
In 2016, Chicago visual artist Jennifer Cronin embarked on a trip to Newtok to document this changing environment. Upon returning, she spent the next several years developing a series of paintings and screen prints titled Seen and Unseen that captured this eroding landscape. Known for her large-scale realistic paintings, Cronin brought an eye for detail to her renderings of Newtok. Meticulously painted landscapes unravel as they disappear into a wispy haze of white paint. "These paintings were my attempt to capture this disappearing landscape, and give viewers a space to connect with this landscape and contemplate it's loss," says Cronin. In 2019, Cronin and musical Artist Patrick Mitchell (a/k/a Dusty Patches) began discussing the project after Cronin asked him to perform at the Gallery opening for the series. As a result, Mitchell created this album, Newtok- inspired by Cronin's Seen and Unseen series and the story of Newtok, Alaska.
Mitchell is a multi-instrumentalist songwriter and producer from Chicago who has led numerous past projects in the Chicago DIY community including de Triomphe, New Color, and Whiskey Wise. He dove headfirst into synths in 2017 and adopted the electronic alias Dusty Patches. Dusty Patches released his debut project Filthy Four Track Machine: Volumes I & II (2018, Sooper Records), largely made with the Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators and OP-1. In 2020, he released Nocturnal Emissions from the Dablatory, his first project fully realized with modular synthesis.
In approaching Newtok, Mitchell composed all of the constituent musical elements of the work and then recorded and live mixed the album during a single live performance on modular synthesizer. The album draws heavily on sprawling ambient synths, electric and acoustic post-punk guitar motifs, cryptic vocal sampling, vintage drum machines, and modular patches that often sound like birds or the sea. The subject matter of the album, the complexity of it's arrangement, and it's execution as a single live recorded performance makes Newtok a unique musical experience.
About Newtok, Mitchell says:
This record was an exploration of themes. When faced with the immense canvases Jen Cronin produced upon her return from the village of Newtok, one can't help but feel awe. With the sheer size of the works towering above you, you are compelled. There is overwhelming beauty, desolation, a sense of urgency, and a sense that it is, in fact, far too late. These visual themes, and the emotions they evoke, were connected to the sounds and compositions of this record. There is a coldness to the digital soundscape, but organic sounds of nature and humans tether and steer the album through a journey of musical storytelling.
Newtok is a journey of musical storytelling about the tragedy of the Anthropocene in the age of climate change. FOR FANS OF: Mother Earth's Plantasia, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Boards of Canada, Bibio