Sporting a kimono and a pair of round spectacles, Tisch first-year Benji Jung, also known as Null Pattern, sits before their desk — a workstation consisting of a desktop, a myriad of CDs and a couple Criterion flicks. Posters of King Krule, James Blake, Neutral Milk Hotel and Mac DeMarco — artists that have influenced their sound over the years — surround them in a Mount Rushmore-like arrangement as they reflected on their career and the release of their first album “Black Dirt Rests.”
“I just think it’s all stories,” Pattern says. “I think music is just another form of storytelling to me because a song traverses from ‘A’ to ‘B,’ and it’s the story of how you get there. I really like that kind of linear structure in songs where you really don’t know what’s going to come next — it’s not just a loop.”
For Pattern, “Black Dirt Rests” comes at a point in their life where they’re very uncertain about what the future holds. The album functions as a send-off to their own youth.
“I’ve been thinking about [growing up] a lot and I feel like the album is nostalgia through a lens of grief,” Pattern says. “I feel like nostalgia and grief are two sides of the same coin, where nostalgia is grieving a lost time and the album is sort of this process of grieving this ideal part of your life that you’re leaving.”
Despite the melancholy subject matter of “Black Dirt Rests,” Pattern wanted to give their project a more optimistic tone.
“I’ve just been sick of cynicism,” Pattern says. “I feel like cynicism, sarcasm and irony have been the mainstream things of our generation, and now that particular brand of genuine, wholesome and pure stuff is just overlooked. If you’re being genuine, people will just say it’s angsty and disregard you.”
Pattern outlines the complicated musical process they followed while writing the album. Where other artists might move through the production process in a straight line, the first-year constantly doubled back on their creations, tearing them apart and reincorporating the fragments into a new attempt.
“I write a lyric, I record the vocals over a demo track, I slice some vocals out, make a new beat out of that, dub new lyrics over it and then change the whole song,” Pattern says. “I don’t know. I have, like, musical ADHD or something.”
Beyond the process of creation, their diverted mindset also makes it harder to classify their sound. Though they reference elements of the electronic and R&B genres, Pattern has instead opted to shed the confines of any specific sound label.
“Nowadays, it’s all about all the genres coming together,” Pattern says. “Pop music has electronic and rock influences, and hip-hop, well, there’s like country-rap now. Take [Little Uzi Vert]’s new song, ‘Futsal Shuffle 2020,’ that’s just like an old techno song and it’s amazing.”
Pattern is now more concerned about specific emotions being achieved through the manipulation of artistic mediums.
“It’s more about … what does this part of the song require?” Pattern says. I feel like defining your sound doesn’t really matter in the end.”
Now that Pattern has finally released “Black Dirt Rests,” grieved and grown up, they’re ready to move on, continue writing and trudge towards that ever-elusive ‘B’ that they yearn to reach one day.
A version of this article appears in the Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, print edition. Email Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer at [email protected]