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Patrick Paige II - Letters of Irrelevance Music Album Reviews

Patrick Paige II - Letters of Irrelevance Music Album Reviews

Following his bandmates Syd, Matt Martians, and Steve Lacy, the bassist of L.A.’s the internet steps up with his solo debut. He’s not yet a natural leader, but his musicianship is self-evident.

Letters of Irrelevance, the debut project from Patrick Paige II, the bassist of the L.A. collective the Internet, arrives at the end of a strong string of solo releases from his fellow band members Syd, Matt Martians, and Steve Lacy, along with the promise of a new record from the group. Unlike his bandmates, whose individual stars rose following their respective solo releases, Paige’s debut—a muted, soulful, profoundly introverted record that focuses more on loneliness and neuroses than the Southern California good life—isn’t going to do much to make him a household name.

Closer to an intimate, handwritten diary of demos than a true solo album (“Writing is the only place I feel safe enough to be vulnerable/This is basically straight from the journals” Paige raps on “The Best Policy”) Letters of Irrelevance captures Paige’s accomplished musicality and expert bass ability but does little to reach outward to its listener. This is bedroom soul, but not like Keith Sweat or Jodeci—instead, it’s music made at three in the morning in your childhood bedroom as your mom sleeps two doors down; lyrics written while dusting off old yearbooks and pondering the whereabouts of lost friends; bass licks honed during long nights alone in a dorm room. The album’s slightly self-deprecating title, Letters of Irrelevance, exemplifies its interiority: This project is for no one but Paige himself, a form of therapy for a sad and overactive mind that finds solace not in people but in the thump and hum of the electric bass.

Like much of the Internet’s work, Letters of Irrelevance is a musician’s album. It lingers over slow grooves, jazzy chord modulations, dusty soul samples, and layered harmonies that take from fellow L.A. bass virtuoso Thundercat. After an all-instrumental SoundCloud project, Prelude, released in 2016, Paige finally steps behind the mic and proves himself to be a competent and self-aware, if still developing, rapper and singer. He perfectly nails D’Angelo’s halting, breathless delivery on the groovy “Voodoo,” an album highlight and clear homage to the neo-soul pioneer (and his bassist, the legendary Pino Palladino), and raps with detailed imagery and palpable feeling on the Syd and Kari Faux-featuring single “On My Mind / Charge It to the Game,” as if he were reading a letter (“Decided to write a verse because I don’t know how to communicate/I hope you’re doing good in school and keep up your grades”).

It’s clear how important Paige’s bass playing is to the Internet, and how vital, in turn, the band is to him. Paige handles his bass with a guitarist’s dexterity and a hip-hop producer’s ear for rhythm, yet his music lacks the dynamism and depth of his work with the group. He brings some much-needed funk and fun to the ForteBowie-featuring “Do My Dance” and the Sareal and G Perico-assisted groove “Get It With My Niggas,” but songs like “The Best Policy,” “Red Knife,” and “Ode to Inebriation” are almost indistinguishable in their boilerplate instrumental soul and rushed, revealing rambles of verses. They feel like what they are: shy, probing attempts by an artist usually relegated to the background to command a song for the first time.

Over solemn keys, boom-bap drums, and intricate, alternating bass and guitar plucks, Paige talks to his dead mother on the heartfelt album closer “The Last Letter,” letting his grief flow with uncommon, deeply felt candor: “Surprised that I could even write this, with dry eyes/I could’ve ended California’s drought alone with my eyes.” Instead of tackling a third verse, Paige steps away from the mic and rips an emotional and piercing guitar solo, letting his sadness and loss ripple out for over a minute. It’s the logical way to end an album by a skilled performer still learning to utilize his voice the way he does his instruments. After all, words, in Patrick Paige II’s melancholy, carefully constructed world, only go so far.

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