Automatic Music - "The Return Of King Harvest"
(Szum Music 2002, CIRCUIT 7)
From Aural Innovations #20 (July 2002)
With their latest CD, the North Carolina collective finishes off the four-season cycle they began on their debut CD And In Arcadia I Am. Automatic Music is raw and improvised; it's jam, space, and acid rock at it's most primal.
The Return of King Harvest (From the Garden of Shadows) gets off to a bit of a slow start. Inside the Beehive is a sort of noisy, scraping affair, though it does have some nice outer space textures happening. It's not a bad opening track, but the 14 ˝ minute Consequently No Barriers is a (too) long ambient noodler that after awhile, doesn't seem to go many places. It tends to slow the album down just when it's getting on its feet, and may have been better later on in the track listing.
The album does pick up after this, with two of its stronger tracks, Troop Movements, a racing speedway of sonic collisions, and Antediluvian Descent, Landing & Plateau, a primordial flight into lands unknown, with some creepy, warped out soloing (wasn't sure if it was on a synth, or processed guitar, but it's quite cool).
Some other standouts are the bluesy rocker Hello Mr. Hope…We Desire You Also, which sounds like something from the 1950's with alien genes spliced into it; the upbeat Heaven is a Long Way Away Ezra Pound, with some freaky electronic and flute sounds grooving over a steady beat and some psyched out guitar (this track also boasts some of the clearest sound quality on the recording); and the eerie midnight spaceship landing blues of Repudiation and Refusal.
My only complaint is that the sound is really (and sometimes really, really) lo fi, with an often quite tinny quality to it. Moving Into Casual Settings, for example, may have been a very cool jam, but sounds like it was recorded on the condenser mic of a cheap ghetto blaster. The sound quality does vary from track to track, but never really rises above lo fi. That's not to say that there's something wrong with lo-fi music, I quite enjoy it when it's the right kind of music, but there's a lot of cool things going on in the complex sound of Automatic Music which would have been nice to hear, but it tends to get lost somewhere in the muddiness and tinny quality of the recording.
Still, if you can put up with that, there's a lot of inventive and spontaneous exuberance here, which (almost) makes up for the poor sound quality. Worth checking out if you're the adventurous type!
For more information you can visit the Szum Music web site at: http://www.szum.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Szum Music; PO Box 4174; Archdale, NC 27263.
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald