Born out of a shared love of Neu!, Suicide and The Go Gos two years ago, Los Angeles trio Automatic might just crafted this year’s finest debut. An integral part of the local DIY scene prior to forming the band, Automatic’s three members – Halle Saxon, Lola Dompe and Izzy Glaudini – haven’t so much stumbled across a winning formula as meticulously generated something entirely unique of their own doing.
Fusing elements of new wave, post punk, krautrock and electro pop; they’ve constructed a heady melange of sonic affluence across the eleven pieces that make up Signal. While opener ‘Too Much Money’ recalls first wave post punk acts Delta 5 (whose ‘Mind Your Own Business’ they’ve covered in their live set for a while and more recently on the b-side of previous 45 ‘Calling It’) and Au Pairs, kicking the record into life in an instant, ‘Calling It’ and ‘Suicide In Texas’ take it even more leftfield. Particular the latter, which takes its cue from Vega and Rev’s slashing electronic rhythms heavily punctuating its icy core.
Musically, Automatic (not “The” Automatic) don’t take any prisoners. Guitars are nowhere to be seen and while that might be a constraint for some, it works a treat here, freeing up space for experimental passages and rhythms aplenty. Sharing vocals between all three, whether it be detached one-liners (‘Calling It’, ‘Damage’) or intrinsic existentialist diatribes (‘Strange Conversations’), there’s a seamless spurge of attitude ripping through the heart of Signal and its every last syllable.
Elementary takes on Neu!’s motorik template and Devo’s angular rhythmic dance rock take centre stage on ‘Highway’ and ‘Humanoid’ respectively. While the celebratory feel of ‘Champagne’ coupled with more deadpan cool on ‘I Love You, Fine’ keeps all and sundry on our toes at crucial intervals.
It would be easy to call Signal a concept album based on its running themes of boredom, solitude and disappointment but then that would be also be doing its creators a huge disservice. This is simply a clarion call for the next decade. Rock music for electroheads. Electronic music for rockers. Except there are no boundaries to overcome as Automatic left them out in the cold.
Long may it continue.
Signal is out now via Stones Throw.
Photo: Logan White