If Autolux fans have learned anything about the L.A. trio since their 2004 debut album Future Perfect, it’s that they take their sweet time. In their case, the preferred incremental gap seems to be six years, which embodies the period it takes them to write and record new music, then tour in support of it. The space occurred between Future Perfect and 2010’s Transit Transit, then once more leading up to the just-released Pussy’s Dead, their third full-length in a dozen years. Frustrating as the wait can be sometimes, the time they take to refine and gestate their sound tends to shine through on their recordings. Six years is more than enough of a gap to allow for different genres to grow and decline, so each time Autolux re-emerges from their self-imposed stasis the music landscape is completely different. Yet while their sound continues to evolve from album to album, it is clearly not dictated by trends. Similar to their peers and friends in Radiohead, Portishead and My Bloody Valentine, they follow their own path and wait for the rest of the world to catch up to them.
Perhaps the extended nature of the Autolux album cycle also has the secondary benefit of stoking the desire of fans, making new music and new tour dates such a rare thing you want them more. It made me beyond excited for Pussy’s Dead, as well as their return to Chicago for a show at The Empty Bottle this past Saturday. As innovative and precise as their albums can be, the sheer electricity of their performances often transforms those songs into entirely new animals altogether. They become louder, more powerful beasts that reveal the true depth of talent all three members individually bring to the table. With nearly equal turns behind the microphone and each playing distinct instruments (guitar, bass, drums), together Autolux form a triangle, the strongest shape in existence, able to withstand any force across its three sides.
Of course the sold out crowd were the ones having to withstand the force surging out of the speakers as the band launched into the psychedelic “Brainwasher” to begin their set. Covered in constantly moving lines and shapes from an overhead visual projector, Carla Azar immediately seized control with immensely complex percussion work while also handling lead vocals. The initial jog built to a sprint as the volume and tempos surged for the 1-2 Future Perfect punch of “Plantlife” and “Subzero Fun,” both of which sent the audience into a frenzy and steadfastly proved nobody, band included, had lost any affection for that first record. It’s still as powerful as it ever was.
The middle portion of the set was largely devoted to material from Pussy’s Dead, which thanks to some small sonic tweaks gained an extra bit of ferocity over how it sounds on record. Given the stylistic and evolutionary chasm Autolux have created across their three full lengths, some changes were essential to achieve a modicum of consistency from song-to-song. In this particular case some of the synth parts of songs like “Selectallcopy” and “Hamster Suite” were partly replaced with guitars, and some of the skittering, programmed beats were either modified or added to with Azar’s wickedly precise drumming.
The true highlights of the night came during the moments when the band broke free of a song’s constraints and brought forth a hurricane of noise and distortion. The studio version of “Blanket” falls just short of five minutes, but as a set closer it nearly doubles in length as every instrument takes a severe beating. Bassist Eugene Goreshter whipped his bass around like a weapon, slamming it into amps and his microphone stand with reckless abandon. Guitarist Greg Edwards stomped on pedals and created intense noise loops while Azar maintained her reputation as one of the greatest living drummers with such intense pounding I was worried something was going to break. It was a rousing way to finish, made all the more astonishing by how they would do it all again when wrapping up their encore with “Reappearing.” It left the crowd completely floored both times, and served as a perfect reminder of just what makes this band so special. Maybe if we’re really lucky, we won’t be forced to wait another six years for the next album and tour.
Audience No. 2
Capital Kind of Strain
Listen to the Order
The Science of Imaginary Solutions