I’ve always been a science nerd, so NASA gets a lot of props around these parts. But after twenty-some-odd years of intrigue, Autolux has now rendered space travel boring. Sure, man flying into the cosmos, the great unknown, stretching our very imaginations in search of clues to our puzzling life here on Earth is great and all — but the television feeds would have been much more affecting had Future Perfect been the soundtrack.
From the crashing stammer of drums that opens the album to the droning noise that closes it, the Los Angeles-based trio’s debut full-length is a bombastic ode to the violence of ignition and the fiery shake of re-entry. Their volcanic brand of rock relies heavily on their unique sound, an atmosphere created by forcing ungodly sounds from their bass, drums and guitars through tactics that border on torture. Feedback and distortion are not musical byproducts to Autolux — they are instruments and are used here as such. The collaboration between the members is plainly apparent in the structure of the songs, and what results is an unusually successful album.
Guitarist Greg Edwards provided half of the creative push behind Failure, a criminally underrated band of the late 1990s, and his contributions to that now-defunct band are quite clear: Ken Andrews supplied the snappy pop melodies, and Edwards supplied the noise. His squelching, whiny guitar pleasantly mangles riff after riff on Future Perfect. On “Blanket,” it changes from a terrifying screech to a grinding crunch as bassist Eugene Goreshter (who played violin on the Beastie Boys’ “Eugene’s Lament”) sings, “I black out/ Just to keep it real/ I black out/ Ain’t no big deal.” I’ve no idea what he’s talking about, but his androgynous voice provides a measure of elegance that seeps through the dissonance.
Carla Azar’s sloppy yet somehow freakishly exact drumming gives Edwards and Goreshter an unconventional landscape to navigate, and that has a great effect on the songs. Cymbals trade musical space with a distorted bass riff on “Subzero Fun,” and on “Robots in the Garden,” the pauses in the rhythm shape the guitars and the vocals. Azar even contributes some vocals to the lolling “Asleep at the Trigger,” adding calm to a moment of levity on the record.
And that might just be the band’s finest achievement here. For all the reckless intensity crammed into the album, it’s not angry or distressed or harmful. It’s simply a wondrous exploration of sound and the limits of bass, drums and guitar. Thanks for everything, NASA, but Autolux has plenty to satisfy my imagination.