A very strange thing happened to me earlier this week; I went to a party where the host and his guests were playing a ton of music that I loved the sound of but had never heard before. Now, obviously I’m not the authority on everything and even when we discuss the scope of contemporary tunes, it’s usually referring only to Western content anyway. But since this blog has taken off in earnest, I usually find myself in situations where I can at least reference, if not pick something before being told what it is. The convergence of information, press releases, social media sharing and news feeds means that there’s always some kind of peripheral understanding assuming you read widely enough. And yet, here I was, stumped. Band after band poured out of the speakers, one that sounded like Queens Of The Stone Age, another that had shades of Warpaint, and then this one, which actually forced me to ask ‘Who’s this again?’ The concept of a completely new discovery is really exciting for me. Getting into a band not because somebody told you to or because you read about them (guilty, as charged) but because you actually pricked up your ears at something foreign is a gift. The last time it happened to me was with Tortoise, another shape-shifting group whose influences and soundscapes are as wide as the expanse of music itself. So I went and looked them up and everything.
Old mate Fraser, who plays in a band that we love called Cameras, gave me the skinny on Autolux. They’re an LA trio who attracted my attention primarily because they’re incredibly rhythm focused. The song I heard when I demanded Fraser tell me who they were was ‘Audience No. 2’, which focuses on the talents of drummer/vocalist Carla Azar. She’s the one you hear deftly pulling out skittery post-punk drumming with the force of a sixties metal sticksman. Her beats flow across the bars, marking time but also destroying it, and her kit is tuned in such a way that her bass drum sounds like it’s entirely hollow and her snare like it’s being processed under water. Azar is serious business. She’s also played with PJ Harvey and is currently in the all-female backing band for the newly-solo Jack White. And I say ‘female’ not as a point of contention, but rather because White’s actually got another one comprised entirely of men, and both of them tour with him. Sonically, Autolux are a bit like a smoky tryst between the well-constructed minor chord ostinatos of Josh Homme, the production style of shoegazers like My Bloody Valentine and the vocal ingenue of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons. There’s always a half-step too short melodic drop lurking around the corner here, resulting on a permanent unease that’s both interesting and startling.
Perhaps most vitally, Autolux just sound cool. While there’s a lot of talent going into their music, it’s carried off with a weary, post-mortem approach that made bands like Interpol so enviable. Main singer and bassist Eugene Goreshter is less icy and more fluid than Paul Banks, but there’s a similar tendency to hover around a certain sharp note while the chords shift beneath to create that crawling kind of tension. The turnaround from the chorus, bringing in extra levels of distorted guitars just adds to that mood, as Goreshter borrows notes from other keys before that white heat cluster bomb that is the main feature section explodes out of left field. Given that all members of the group sing, it’s also hard to tell who’s doing what and when. But regardless, this is a rock band that take no prisoners and give little to no fucks. It’s certainly a big change from what I’ve been listening to recently, and put me back in touch with my rock ‘n’ roll adolescence. Here’s to more dinner party discoveries of the fuzzed-out kind…
Autolux – ‘Audience No. 2’