Signal by Automatic, album review by Adam Williams

Stones Throw

7

Automatic

Signal

The origins of LA based trio, Automatic, are a dichotomy to the group’s sound; while the outfit gravitated towards each other organically, the sonics they produce are intrenched in synthetic skin, as they’re enshrouded by mechanical electronics and an austere leaning that invokes the harsh coldness of Joy Division and Kraftwerk. Izzy Glaudini (synths/vocals), Lola Dompe (drums/vocals) and Halle Saxon (bass/vocals) met as part of their local DIY punk scene and began jamming. Quickly into their early sessions, they opted to ditch the guitar, a reminder of the masculine energy and uninspiring rock music heard on the radio, in favour of synthesisers. This switch in musical equipment wiped the slate clean for Automatic and plunged them into far reaching sounds, like dub reggae and the frazzled electronics of Neu! and Suicide. Another cleansing property, to rid themselves of any macho residue, came in the form of their band name: Automatic, a tribute to the Go-Go’s, the only female band to have written and played their instruments on an album to reach #1 in the US.

The three piece’s debut LP ‘Signal’ is a motorik, machine driven voyage through warped synths, the perpetual motion of throbbing bass and metronome-esque drumming. The record has an esoteric quality, one that’s quite hard to penetrate, as there’s a harshness and coldness that’s not only conveyed by its aural DNA but by the collective’s vocal stylings. The three composite members contribute vocals across all 11 tracks but their deadpan, emotionless delivery is bestowed with limited human warmth, making for a withdrawn and sometimes aloof experience. This level of disconnection makes for a challenging but rewarding listen; the album encourages you to burrow deeper and those that do will be rewarded by uncovering very real emotions. Glacial synths and jerky drums envelope ‘I Love You, Fine’s android tribal rhythms, which has the three headed synth wielders purr “come closer/say that you want it” like cyborgs with a penchant of sexual deviancy. ‘Electrocution’, inspired by a freak near-death experience for Glaudini, crackles and fizzes with weird malfunctioning noises and a broken siren like scree, as Automatic reflect on “there’s no deceiving this violent feeling”. ‘Highway’s jerky electro-groove sparks imagery of neon-lit skylines and the concept of driving through a city at night, as it’s repetitive rhythms channel the feeling of constant motion. The record’s eponymous track is a throbbing piece of post-punk that delves into relationships with technology and our ever-growing dependency on gadgetry “Oh look at me/machinery of modern life” and “I’d like to meet a distant wave of new design” typifying the track’s narrative. ‘Humanoid’ slows ‘Signal’ down to a grating crawl, like a robotic death march, as a disembodied vocal ponders “I see you turning to/I see you turning to/humanoid”. The real question here is, is this a human taking on a more cybernetic persona or an artificial lifeform adopting human traits? Closing track ‘Strange Conversations’ perhaps, shines a light on why Automatic have opted for a synthetic tone for ‘Signal’; over plodding bass tones and fuzzy synth waves, the damning line of “I thought I told you I can’t stand anyone at all” casts aspersions on the human race.

Organic by conception, synthetic by birth; ‘Signal’ provokes a very 21st Century feeling, one of anxiety and disconnection but also a feeling of wanting and needing some kind of human contact.

Words and thoughts of Adam Williams

Signal by Automatic arrives on September 27th via Stones Throw Records

Automatic
Live Dates

10/17 – Paris, FR @ Mains D’oeuvres
10/18 – Lille, FR @ L’Aéronef
10/19 – Groningen, Netherlands @ Vera
10/20 – Eindhoven, Netherlands @ DDW Music Festival
10/22 – London, UK @ Shacklewell Arms
10/23 – Bristol, UK @ The Lanes
10/25 – Amsterdam, Netherlands @ London Calling Festival
10/28 – Berlin, Germany @ Urban Spree
10/29 – Antwerp, Belgium @ Trix

11/7 – Austin, TX @ Levitation*
11/8 – Oklahoma City, OK @ 89th Street OKC^
11/9 – Memphis, TN @ Hi Tone^
11/10 – Nashville, TN @ The Basement^
11/12 – Columbus, OH @ Oberlin College^
11/13 – State College, PA @ Webster’s^
11/14 – Oberlin, OH @ Oberlin College^
11/16 – Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz^
11/19 – Hamden, CT @ Space Ballroom^
11/20 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts^
11/21 – Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery^
11/22 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom^
11/24 – Washington, DC @ Black Cat^

* = w/ Angel Olsen, Kikagaku Moyo, Black Marble, Holy Wave and more
^ = w/ Black Marble