Automatic Music - "Carnival Of Light" (Szum 2001, CIRCUIT 5)
Automatic Music - "Let Us Go Into The Open Country" (Szum 2001, KEEP 1)
From Aural Innovations #16 (June 2001)
When we reviewed the first 3 Automatic Music CDs a couple issues ago, we learned that the "band" is a collective of several musicians from North Carolina led by Fred Hall and Ed Shepherd. These two new releases are the fifth Automatic Music CD and a compilation of solo performances and tracks from their first 4 CDs. In the interview with Bret Hart this issue I learned even more about this interesting collective, but for the benefit of eager listeners I was pleased to see that the liner notes to the newest CD, Carnival Of Light, includes the answers to the questions, What and Who are Automatic Music? Noting the striking variety from one track to the next on any of their recordings, it makes sense to note the opening line that answers these questions states that "Automatic Music is a collective of musicians with diverse interests and tastes in composition, structure and form who have agreed to disagree on what music is." Well that works for me because the results include a variety of nifty improvisations that run the gamut from raw space and Krautrock jams to more experimental explorations.
When Automatic Music take off on their Krautrock styled jams the results are raw, often meandering, but just as often damn good journeys into the Kosmiche realms. Carnival Of Light has more of this type of music than the previous releases I've heard, though what we get from Automatic Music typically includes a good bit of experimental rock as well. "The Past Lives Awake" is a wild glom of rumbling spaced out psych guitars with an experimental edge, freaky electronics, and oddball voice samples. "Today" includes cool bubbling space guitars and trippy bluesy guitars. We'll call it experimental psychedelia. The Cosmic Jokers of the new millennium joining together in the studio for improvisational mindfucks.
"That" and "This" seem to be the Automatic Music take on Shoegazer music. "That" builds a wall of fuzz and drone which twists and turns continually making for a harsh ambient wave of sound. Bubbling, tripping, and generally beat upon guitars dance about as they surf the floating wave. But then the last couple minutes turn into a quirky Krautrocking space jam. "This" is in some ways more ethereal, though no less harsh, and I especially liked the unbalancing looped effects.
The real highlights of the CD are "Fumar Del Segundo Mano (en el agua)" and "Our Heavenly Bodies". "Fumar Del Segundo Mano (en el agua)" begins with a brain piercing synth tone, manic keyboard patterns, and more guitar freakouts, making for a 16 minute avant-Krautrock jam that combines acid rock and experimental improvisation, with maybe a dash of Sun Ra at his freakiest. There's some great electronic sounds here too. It gets pretty harsh at times, but more in a sonic acidic mindfuck manner rather than wall of noise way. The music segues through a number of loose themes and many might accuse it of lacking direction. While my attention did indeed wane a few times, overall I was diggin' it as a fun jam tune throughout. A solid tripped out guitar and electronics jam that recalls those thrilling days of Kosmiche yesteryear. "Our Heavenly Bodies" surprised me by starting off like a sludgy, stoner styled Black Sabbath gone industrial piece. But it soon becomes a freaky free-for-all psych jam like Fumar. There's also some jazzy and orchestral bits that made me think of Amon Düül teaming up with Sun Ra or electric Miles. Things break the mercury for experimental trippiness, and only a relaxed mind that is open to the benefits of chaos will really appreciate this.
Let Us Go Into The Open Country features a more varied collection of tracks. Three of the tracks, "Eggplant", "Autumn Blue", and "Missed You Again" are from the first 3 Automatic Music CDs which you can read about in issue #14. "Wooden Princess Hoedown & Recapture" is from This Is Automatic Music, which I haven't heard. But I can see where Hoedown made its way into the title. Imagine a drugged barndance held in a machine shop and you'll get something like this track. Wild stuff.
There are also five solo tracks that name the bands or musicians. Tragic Bunny's contribution is a funky rocker that lays down a cool groove. A nice psych rocker, its also got a jazzy feel from the rhythm section. I really like the dual guitar sound, with one kicking out blues licks while the other trips out in space. Klang Quartet's entry is a sound study, with the focus seeming to be a busy urban landscape. Cars rush by as electronic crashes and tones gives us a jolt from time to time. Gentlemaniac offers the listener a change of pace with a genuine song. East October plays a quirky, carnival-like, but somewhat dark organ piece. And finally, Bret Hart offers up a Zappa styled tune that, at only 2 minutes, ends just as it starting to take off.
In summary, well... it's hard to summarize Automatic Music. Carnival Of Light would certainly be a good start for Aural Innovations readers, given the psychedelic and Krautrock nature of most of the tracks. But I also enjoy the variety that Open Country offers, especially having heard many of the named artists by now. Keep at it guys!
Automatic Music is distributed by Szum Music. You can email them at email@example.com.
Contact via snail mail at 4970 Randleman Rd; Greensboro, NC 27406.
Some limited band info and a sound files can be found at the Automatic Music IUMA page at: http://www.iuma.com/IUMA/Bands/AUTOMATIC_MUSIC/
Information is also available at Bret Hart's InstrumenTales web site at: http://pages.about.com/oddmusic/oDDmUSIC.html.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz