Meet: Pattern Language aka Chris Frain

Colorado-based synth-electronic crafter Pattern Language has just released his debut mini-album ‘Total Squaresville’ via London’s Happy Robots Records. In these six tracks, he has managed to create a sound and vibe similar to krautrock legends like Kraftwerk, Cluster, Harmonia, and La Dusseldorf.

Pattern Language is the new project of Chris Frain. Currently based in Boulder, Colorado, Frain was previously keyboard player for the indie-pop band The Giranimals (where he developed a love for the staple sounds of the Minimoog and Melotron instruments) and bassist for the power-prog rock trio Tanuki. In 2013, Frain decided to pursue a solo electronic music career after a chance viewing of the BBC4 documentary “Synth Britannia”, which made him fall back in love with the sound of the synthesizer.

The tracks found on ‘Total Squaresville’ showcase Frain drawing heavily on influences from his childhood, including The Art of Noise, Eurythmics, Thomas Dolby, and the 1980s iteration of King Crimson. Particularly noteworthy is the use of pre-Roland 808 sounds for the drum machine parts, placing this version of synthwave closer to the late 1970s than the mid-to-late 1980s sound currently dominating this sub-genre.

We spoke with Chris Frain.

Tell us about your new release.

“Total Squaresville” is a six track EP/mini-album that is currently available on the London-based label Happy Robots Records. The EP is my first release on a label, and my first under the moniker “Pattern Language.” The music itself has a very retro/synth wave feel to it, but harkening back more to the sound of the late 1970s than the mid 1980s. I think it would appeal to those who like artists such as Kraftwerk, Stereolab, A.I.R., and Neu!

‘By Time We Get There’

Tell us about one or some of your favourite creations to date?

I just started doing remixes for other artists and it is a lot of fun! One of my biggest problems is overcoming the “blank canvas” but with remixes you can just dive in and start reassembling and creating new parts based on what is already there. The remix I created for Rodney Cromwell’s “Cassiopeia” (on the “Fax Machine Breakup” EP) is still something I enjoy listening to, and I did several remixes for the band Battery Operated Orchestra which should be coming out soon.

Tell us about an event from the life of your musical project that we don’t know about?

If you pursue music long enough everything starts to feel like “Spinal Tap” after a while, LOL! I remember I was playing bass in a band in a sort of barely-fenced off area along a busy pedestrian-only street. Right in the middle of a song, as I’m playing bass with both hands occupied, a gentleman appeared beside me and sincerely asked me if I had a light for his cigarette.

What inspires you to create the music you create?

I’m inspired by those who try to create their own sound right from the start instead of comfortably settling in to what’s stylish at the moment. I was watching a documentary about the so-called “Krautrock” artists of the 1970s and one of profound things that really inspired me from that is how they were all attempting to create their own sound outside of the American and British rock scenes that were already dominating the pop music world at the time. That effort to completely reject the dominant forms and timbres of the time and try to come up with something new (but not entirely abstract or unrelatable) is really admirable.

‘Le Choc des Etoiles’

Of course you write music that you’re pleased with, but may I ask – which song (by someone else) do you wish you had written yourself?

I wish I wrote “Yesterday” – I’d be filthy rich!

If you had to describe your sound as some kind of food, what would it be?

Great question! I’ve been watching a lot of “The Great British Bake Off” recently so of course I’m going to go with a savory biscuit – because it’s not quite what you would expect in terms of flavor but it’s still delicate and delicious.

What’s next for you? What are you planning in the near future?

Hopefully a tour of either the US or UK in the later half of 2017 or early 2018. I’d like to do more abstract music projects, possibly to accompany films or stage productions as well. I’d love to continue doing remix projects, too!

Apart from making music and performing, what kinds of things are you into? 

I rather enjoy road cycling – just as a hobby, not competitively. I’m also a contributing author on a retroculture blog called, where I can finally put my knowledge of 1980s PC games and Italian post-apocalyptic movies to good use.


Pattern Language on the Net

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