Automat - Automat

by Rich Morris Rating:6 Release Date:2014-04-07

A collaboration between Einstürzende Neubauten’s guitarist, Jochen Arbeit, drummer Achim Färber and bassist zeitblom (full marks for nom de plumage there), Automat exists in a hinterland between industrial, dub and minimalist techno. Starting with opening number ‘THF’, this trio create a series of murky, funky, serpentine but menacing grooves, the kind which would be perfect for soundtracking one of those scenes in US TV shows set in a club that’s halfway between titty bar and Trent Reznor’s recording studio. You know, the kind of club that doesn’t actually exist because no one would go there.

I digress… The music on Automat is excellently played and produced, full of creeping, contained paranoia, but it’s a little, well, 90s. It’s also a tad too wipe-clean, which is surprising for something involving a member of Einstürzende Neubauten, a band known for playing scrap metal on stage. So ‘THF’ and ‘SFX’ pass by without making too much of an impression, until we get to ‘The Streets’ featuring Lydia Lunch, and the fun starts.

Consisting of a submerged dub rhythm, ‘The Streets’ sees Lunch croaking and purring in her best sex-vixen-turned-bag-lady voice. Halfway through, some gorgeous acoustic strumming rises up from the depths to tear shards of sunlight in the inky morass. It marks the point where the album comes alive.

The following ‘Mount Tamalpais’ features the always reliable Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and is also excellent. Over beautiful ambient synth and minimal percussion, Genesis appears to relate a drug-induced out-of-body experience, possibly a journey to the afterlife, wondering if the voice s/he can hear is his/her own or that of a “big, wounded, flightless bird”. It’s utterly lovely, ineffably cool, a little sexy and implacably sad all at the same time.

The following ‘TXF’ returns to the alternative dance sounds but thankfully with a little more oomph than the earlier numbers, letting cowbells clatter against deep bass swooshes and what sounds like gravel under marching boots. It’s more LCD Soundsystem than NIN b-side, but it still doesn’t go anywhere meaningful and takes almost seven minutes to prove it.

The feeling that Automat only really raise their game when they have someone on vocals is compounded by ‘Am Schlachtensee’, on which Neubauten’s Blixa Bargeld turns up to do his party trick of whispering stuff which sounds simultaneously seductive and psychotic over some low-down, booty-vibrating dub. The closing ‘GWW’, however, is the best instrumental of the lot, combining all the previous musical styles and adding lovely, melancholy guitar-lines worthy of Neu!’s Michael Rother.

The best moments of Automat are truly excellent. They outweigh the uninspiring tracks in number, but those numbers are tediously long, so it’s a definite mixed bag. There’s enough here, however, to make you believe that a second Automat album could be a classic. 

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