Monday, July 19, 2010

Automelodi - Automelodi


Wierd Records.

SCQ Rating: 77%

Wierd Records, who landed a permanent spot on my label-radar earlier this month with Frank (Just Frank)’s disarming The Brutal Wave, is again proving their post-punk affinity with Montreal-based outfit Automelodi. Centered around the dense compositions of songwriter Xavier Paradis, Automelodi shares many attributes with their label-mates, as both acts perform vocals in French and bring a minimal synth approach to contemporary scenes. Where this self-titled LP deviates from standard Wierd releases (and indeed from The Brutal Wave) is in its production techniques, as Paradis equips these songs with a wide range of modern instruments and studio effects. Sticking to one’s principles pays significant dividends on Automelodi, a collection of sticky synth-pop gems that merge the best of New Wave with a post-millennial edge.

How that edge translates amid such retro-but-authentic musings (think Soft Cell) boils down to modern synthesizers and drum-machines that, more often than not, render the material on Automelodi nearly electronic-rock. Early highlights like ‘Rose A.D.’ and ‘Rayons De Rien’ share an 80s pulse that blurs New Wave into what could nowadays be considered a nuanced form of Big Beat, while other songs cross over with increasingly digital back-beats (‘Rentree 3007’). Despite an overly synthesized sound, Automelodi never sounds cold, utilizing heated emotional lyrics and enveloping keys that clothe Paradis’ occasionally bitter sentiments. That Automelodi displays such a contrast between cool and warmth without ever appearing shackled to details or studio effects is doubly impressive. Even at their claustrophobic coldest, you can feel the sweat behind Automelodi.

Interestingly, the album gets stronger as it progresses, forsaking some of the early verse-chorus necessities for unpredictably engaging advancements. After letting go of some tension on ‘Employe Terne’, an upbeat number that might echo as twee if not for Paradis’ forthright vocals, Automelodi unveils the true scope of their sonic aptitude on ‘Limite Malade’, smearing chords over a slow-burning bass groove. Here’s an evolution, caught to tape, that shouldn’t be ignored. This isn’t a case of Automelodi finding their voice over ten songs, it’s a showcase of a band transforming from Francophone radio fodder to something deeper, less tangible and more original. Even on the subsequent CD-only bonus track ‘S’rait Bon D’S’Revoir’, this voice is continually growing into a signature sound, untapped yet wholly addicting. An exciting, if partially unbalanced, debut worth dancing alone to.

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