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 its 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.
Dusty Patches is the electronic project of Patrick Mitchell, a Chinese-American Artist and veteran of the Chicago DIY community. Mitchell is a multi-instrumentalist, producer & songwriter known for his primary roles in Chicago bands New Color, Whiskey Wise, and De Triomphe. After years fronting bands, Mitchell began posting videos of live synth jams on YouTube under the name Dusty Patches in 2016. Dusty Patches fuses Mitchell's deep understanding of music with his mad-scientist like pursuit of synthesizer fetishism. His approach relies on a sophisticated technical understanding of hardware integration and workflow, through which he produces compositions that are highly complex in melodic structure, rhythmic evolution, and tone. Mitchell's synthesizer craze started with an exploration of the Teenage Engineering Operator 1 (OP-1) and Pocket Operator synthesizers. A selection of these compositions were released in 2018 as a double EP cassette titled "Filthy Four Track Machine volumes I + II” (Sooper Records). In 2020, Dusty Patches 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 its arrangement, and its 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. Learn More and donate to the Village of Newtok at https://relocatenewtok.org. A portion of Record and Artwork sales will be donated to the Village of Newtok’s Relocation Effort.
Written, Produced, Recorded & Mixed by Patrick Mitchell
Mastered by Doug McBride
Artwork by Jennifer Cronin
Layout and Design by Izzi Vasquez