“Robots In The Orchestra” – ‘I Am Your Autopilot’
Tonight I thought I might take a look at something completely different, and I’ve been holding onto this album for about a month since its release. I’ve been distracted with work-related essays, folios and other-such for a while now, and the burden of studying is taking its toll on ‘Hiighly Evolved’ in more ways than one. If you’ve been wondering why we’ve been ‘neglecting’ our rightful-blogging duties, upcoming exams are really: “freakin’ us out, man!”
Suffice to say, I’ve really hit some hurdles in my own listening, and there’s hardly been any albums worth mentioning to our readers that’s really going to spark those interests of yours that we’re not saving for Joint Reviews. “‘I Am Your Autopilot’ have finally made their debut with “Robots In The Orchestra”, and it’s a delectable album I must admit. To quote from their http://www.last.fm summary:
“Their sound was described as bursting out all over with… surrealist pop… “
So, sit yourselves back and immerse yourself in:
So, I’d like to fill you in on some more of those untrustworthy summaries courtesy again of http://www.last.fm just to give you guys some background information on the cog’s spinning behind the machine that are our friends ‘… Autopilot’. Rediscovering themselves three years ago, in the fruitful year of ’06, being lost for some while, band members Ben and Graeme, prior to being the constituents of ‘… Autopilot’, were writing-partners for “The Italian Love Party”, who recorded for ‘Factory Two’. When all that fell to pieces, Ben and Graeme went their separate ways, in a number of other art projects. One of these projects became destined, with Ben meeting Jasper. And so, their formation began, as Graeme took “… tentative steps…” towards reigniting the band-flame. Such as it is, “Robots In The Orchestra” is the result of all their hard work.
Onwards, and I’ll begin by shooting out of the water the coinage of the term ‘surrealist pop’. What constitutes surrealism, you ask? Something strange, something insubstantial, something subjective – to some degree, ‘… Autopilot’ does have this strange, bewildering, and at times, awe-inspiring combination of synthesised samples and acoustic guitar riffs, and yes, you could say it was surrealistic. But I’m going to completely eliminate that word ‘pop’ and delete it as a genre because I think ‘… Autopilot’ are toying with the fundamental elements of chamber music, rather. This is where the lines between pop and chamber get a little blurry, because it’s easy to interpret one as the other – sometimes.
Let’s take for instance our favourite character at the moment, she’s literally exploded out onto the charts all over the UK, if she’s still up there, good on her: ‘La Roux’. If any of you have heard anything ‘La Roux’ is offering, I’d constitute that as pop. Chamber music itself focuses heavily on utilising the human voice rather as the sole instrument for conveying musical composition – in this respect, the beat, the notes, the key-shifts and other-such, are generally controlled by the vocals. Unlike pop, where it’s just usually one-voice with simplistic backing vocals, chamber seperates voices to create chords, much like a piano. Some artists will sometimes either specifically target the human voice as an instrument to ‘back-up‘ their main vocalisation, or conversely, utilise it as an instrument. Chamber takes elements and combines them in a singular form to create music – yes, somewhat reminiscent of orchestral-hymns, no, not the Catholic ones.
And for that simple reason, I can’t really example any bands that are like them in any way. The unique and intimate nature that is in “Robots In The Orchestra” is unmistakably theirs. Juxtaposition between electric and acoustic elements – instrument-wise – creates this feeling of emptiness on one occasion,and full-bodied emotion on the other. Depending on which track, ‘… Autopilot’ can bring you to your knees or raise you to the heavens above. Admittedly, this isn’t music for everybody, but it’s a change. If I had to suggest someone close on one level to ‘… Autopilot‘, I’d ask you to look into a band called ‘The Middle East’, which me and my partner will be seeing live this Sunday, and be leaving in the wee-hours of on Monday-morning.
[So, I suppose it’s time to prepare for the midnight-morning hangover in advance, eh?]
The ambient/soundscape-based elements that these guys are playing with are momentous, and in this same vein, ‘… Autopilot’ is demonstrating it from a different perspective with the same elements. For lyric-lovers, you’ll find yourselves at ease – lyrics are clean, audible, and their vocalisation are the sole driving force between each and every track. And without further delay, onto the opener, and the single for “Robots In The Orchestra”, the mind-blowing track “Smokescreens”:
“… There is no plan… But time will come… When we will open our eyes… And see what we have done…”
… Are the opening lyrics of “Smokescreens”, and they almost poignantly reflect the dilemmas of the band itself, it’s somewhat ‘unsure’ nature. In this respect, to simplify the garbled mess of my words above, I think they’re trying to say: “… we’re winging it, and if it works out, we’ll know what we’re doing, from here-on in…”
[HOO-RAY FOR SUBJECTIVE INTERPRETATIONS!]
The combination of repetitive synth, acoustic chimes, the sound of electric water dripping, and the airy, distant echo of the vocals, make the body of “Smokescreens”. If you can’t get your heard around this marvel, there’s not much hope for you left. I’ll move onto my personal favourite, “Airside”, and again, it’s that bizarre mix of synthesised samples which form the underlay for:
“… Making my home… In between your lines… Watch the dust stop in formation falling from a clear sky…*”
At 1:27, we see this come into focus with the phrase:
“… Can you tell me which direction I should go in…”
One voice starts, then the second at the utterance of the word “you”, and again, for a third time, to form this overlap. At 1:50, hymn-like humming appears, and it’s very solemn, very low, very deep and sensual. It reappears again at 3:04 with an overlay of “Ohh’s” by one voice which raises it an octave. Now, this is very confusing stuff, and I suppose my descriptions just don’t do it any justice, it really has to be heard to be appreciated.
I’m going to stop there, for now on the tracks, and summarise my review by saying that “Robots In The Orchestra” deserves your complete attention for full appreciation. It’s another one of those albums where you’ll have to sit in a corner, on a chair or whatever, and pay close attention – it is an acquired taste, but it’s a change from the indie, and a variation on my one of my favourite forms of music, ambience. Great debut: a potential purchase if it homes-in on any Australian shelves near me.
By the way, it’s best heard loud…
Stand-out Tracks: “Smokescreens”, “Airside”, “Traces”, “Timelines”
The Enantiomorphic God
[* = … mightn’t be sure of the lyrics]