July 10, 2010

Album Review: Autolux's Transit Transit

Like a prodigal son, it's taken way too long for Los Angeles experimental rockers, Autolux, to make their return to the music world. Following a short-lived stint on a major label, high profile tours with the likes of Thom Yorke, The White Stripes and Nine Inch Nails, appearances at some of the world's largest music festivals and a six year hiatus from releasing new material, the time has finally arrived for the trio's highly overdue sophomore effort.

When we last left Autolux back in 2004 and their debut, Future Perfect, the band was nothing short of a wall of sound combining elements of dreamy shoegaze and Sonic Youth-like noise rock with contrasting dark pop melodies. That album also featured the keen-eyed perfectionism and high end production of legendary eclectic musician, T-Bone Burnett. On Transit Transit, Autolux are doing without the star power producer and have signed with independent label, TBD Records. Business decisions aside, it's really the creative aspect of Transit Transit that makes it clear a lot can change in six years. Ladies and gentlemen, Autolux is floating in space.

Unlike the wall of sound heard on Future Perfect, a majority of Transit Transit sees Autolux exploring beyond the parameter and reaching out into an outer limit intangible to space and time. Album opener and title track, "Transit Transit", is a bare bones and ghostly piano song backed by the sounds of a flickering film reel and subtle trip-hop beat that lightly floats lead singer, Eugene Goreshter's delicate voice off amid a blur of horns (Something you would definitely not hear from this band years ago.) "Highchair" evokes inspiration from Portishead due to its dark quietness and spooky guitar scales amid deep bass lines and electronics. "Spots" is another slow-moving drifter that mimics a line from the lyrics in making you "feel drunk and sad." It sees Goreshter returning to the piano as his band mates strip down to an acoustic guitar and less primal drumming before the track flurries into strings and dies into a hiss of guitar noise and reverb. It segways perfectly into "The Bouncing Wall," in which drummer Carla Azar's softened vocals take lead in this dreamy number featuring a surge of electronic fuzz and twinkly xylophones. All these examples being noted, Autolux are steering clear of that crunchy, loud distortion they once relied so heavily upon in favor of subtle sound manipulation that engulfs the atmosphere instead of concealing it.

A small criticism to Transit Transit are incongruities of style throughout the album's duration. While both strong tracks, "Supertoys" and "Audience No. 2" could possibly have been written within the close proximity of Future Perfect. They share more in common with the shoegaze ambiance and experimental alt-rock heard from 2004-era Autolux than the sluggish, spaced out journies found today mostly on Transit Transit. It creates a lack of flow, despite the fact that "Census" and "Kissproof" fall somewhere between these two eras and make for sensible buffers zones.

It's best to finally have Autolux back than to not have them back at all. Much of Transit Transit marks a stark departure away from the noisy, My Bloody Valentine inspiration heard on their debut and sees Autolux chartering off into a stoned out space odyssey reminiscent to Spiritualized. It's understandable that Autolux would want to include a little of everything written since their debut, but a few of those tracks cause some turbulence along the way. Whatever the case, Autolux's six year evolution is well represented on this long overdue release, and here's hoping it doesn't take another six years for the Los Angeles trio to make their way back down to Earth.

Autolux's Transit Transit will be released August 3, 2010 on TBD Records.

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