What the hell, Autolux?! What’s with the wack album title?! Now Big Brother is going to track me because it thinks I’m watching porn or I killed my cat…
But on a more serious note –
The Los Angeles-based trio Autolux has resurfaced over the past year with the intriguing lead single “Soft Scene” in January and the announcement of the release of its 3rd album, Pussy’s Dead, April 1st on Brian Burton’s (Danger Mouse) new label 30th Century Records. The experimental, electronic/organic band had previously bowed “Change My Head” in 2015 on an inaugural compilation album for 30th Century Records and this cut is also featured on the 10-track Pussy’s Dead. BOOTS (Beyoncé, Run The Jewels, FKA Twigs) came on board as the producer and Eugene Goreshter, Greg Edwards, and Carla Azar considered him to be a 4th member of the band during the making of the album.
Goreshter, Edwards, and Azar formed Autolux in 2001and released a pair of widely-acclaimed albums, the post-punk-inspired Future Perfect in 2004 and the synths ‘n’ samples mix of Transit Transit in 2010. Critical and fan recognition and appreciation rose with each record and with Autolux’s prominent, invitation-based slots supporting big-name artists like Nine Inch Nails, Queens Of The Stone Age, and PJ Harvey on tour, as well as the band’s own headline performances. The trio also collaborated on and off with James Lavelle for his project UNKLE, remixing “Turnstile Blues” for a limited edition 12”, composing material for UNKLE’s War Stories album, and contributing to the song “Joy Factory” from Where Did the Night Fall.
On Pussy’s Dead, Autolux takes a different route than on its previous albums, eschewing an all-encompassing electric guitar-driven sound and instead electronically stitching up bits of organically-played sonics into an aural patchwork quilt. The sequencing of tracks and album artwork from Australian artist Anthony Lister both feed into Autolux’s specific aesthetic of creating a transitional, contrasting, and confusing auditory and emotional realm. As the band members state on their Facebook profile, their hybrid music is “Highly functioning chaos with an affinity for beauty.”
Soporifically alluring, minimalistic first single “Soft Scene” lays down measured, squelching and clacking beats and a sparse undercurrent of reverberating and shaken percussion. Azar’s languorously dispassionate vocals float over the mix as she lightly intones “You’ll be so free / but not enough for me.” Sporadic sizzling distortion builds to a more consistent burn as morphed male vocals shadow Azar’s drooping vocal tone. Sharp clicks and glitches and an extremely extended synth line run in tandem with Azar’s chopped vox, creating a slightly askew, swirling atmosphere.
A rangy, canned beat, sitar-like plucks, low-tone synth notes, filtered percolation, and cooing backdrop vocals accompany the sung-talked lyrical mantra of “You don’t remember your dreams / They still make you strange / The sun is a wheel / The day is a cage.” on the AIR-like meditation “Hamster Suite”. “Junk For Code” amps it up just a bit with a kicky marching drum beat, bleating stabs of horns, and weakly leaning synth notes. An emotionally apathetic Goreshter is in the spotlight, draining any feeling out of the lines “So sick and tired / Let it all go / I’ll bet you wanted what you don’t know.”
“Brainwasher” cleanses the noggin with a gently funky, sudsy cycle of rat-tat-tat drum beats and falsetto vocals. Like the rest of the songs on Pussy’s Dead, the electronic sonics and vocals are distorted to the left of what is expected, creating a mildly warped ambience as the vocalist detachedly declares “I see right through you.” multiple times. Slowly wavering synth lines, piquant electro plinks, and reflective piano notes accompany Goreshter’s sharper vocals on the lightly trippy, 60s-steeped, possibly The Beatles-inspired “Change My Head”. It’s a more direct tune with its verse/chorus/verse structure, heady washes of male “Ahhh”ing harmonies, pronounced drum thump, singed cymbal hits, and gritty patina of aero-electrostatic. Goreshter drones with a more lively vocal delivery that “I change my head so I won’t be followed / …I change my head so I won’t be bored.”
The least tedious, but most noisy track on the album is the noir electro-rocker “Listen To The Order” which sparks it up with a kinetic drum beat, hi-hat scintillation, and low-gear guitar grind. Goreshter’s vocals, however, hover colorlessly over the increasing intense guitar ‘n’ drums immolation, his voice a strangely bland counterpoint to the dynamically dissonant noise-rock sonics. Throughout the album, the band’s intent to highlight the auditory/emotional disconnect between the spare, tepidly mellow vocals and the more vibrant, engaged, yet still off-center instrumentation is laudable, but the final formation falls flat as a listening experience.
The initial effect of each song on Pussy’s Dead is one of deconstructed, dissociative displacement due to divergence from the aural norm. At first the album oddly attracts like a furry magnet, but as it wears on, the lasting impression is one of lackluster vocal enthusiasm, dulled emotional spirit, and mostly muted, skewed, and/or processed sonics. Listener curiosity is eventually killed like the proverbial cat, and, as Autolux knows all too well, Pussy’s Dead…
By Jen Dan