Let’s get this out of the way, straight off the bat, Transit Transit is a depressing listen. While Future Perfect, Autolux’s debut, wasn’t a barrel of laughs, it possessed well-crafted songs and an endearing playfulness. The solid tracks remain on Transit Transit but any sense of fun is drowned in a haze of churning guitar and washed out vocals. So, if you’re looking for a belated summer soundtrack, stick with Best Coast. Ok, down to business.
It’s been a long time between drinks for Autolux - Future Perfect, was released in 2004 to well deserved critical praise but label drama made the next six years a bit of a struggle. Transit Transit’s first single, ‘Audience No. 2’, was released in May 2008 but it’s not until now that the full album has found release. It’s a frustration reflected in the record’s mood, which feels restrained and disconnected, trying to break free from the distortion it’s blanketed by. It makes for an intriguing and, in parts, very challenging listen that requires attention and perseverance.
The album’s opener and title track immediately sets the atmosphere with its simple piano and looped percussive clickings. It has a haunted feel that stays with the record to its end. ‘Census’ is more reminiscent of Future Perfect, albeit seriously lacking in serotonin. It employs driving guitar, that’s given a swagger by Carla Azar’s intricate drumming that builds to a frenzied crescendo.
The record’s recently released single, ‘Supertoys’, has bassist Eugene Goreshter and Azar sharing vocal duties to form good cop/bad cop dialogue. Goreshter drones “Scrape your insides out/Keep a quiet empty mind” while Azar plays the consoler, “It’s alright/You’re ok/Just let it be/Broken”. It’s Azar who offers the record’s few glimpses of light, with a voice sweet enough to contrast with the ever-present melancholy.
Transit Transit doesn’t stray too far from the sound defined on the trio’s first album but instead experiments within it. Persistent listens are rewarded with the revelation of subtleties that Future Perfect lacked, such as the fuzzed out the didgeridoo-like sound emanating from the depths of ‘The Bouncing Wall’.
‘Audience No. 2’ methodically plods on while Goreshter laments, “I have always been your vegetable/And you my Swedenborg” to give the record one of its more striking lines. For reference, Wikipedia tells us that Swedenborg was a born again Swedish scientist who claimed he could chat to angels and demons. ‘The Science of Imaginary Solutions’ ties proceedings up tidily with its scratchy piano, thumping drums and Azar proclaiming “It’s all over now/It’s all over now for you”.
Autolux have taken some risks on Transit Transit to mark an obvious, if not overwhelming, departure from their debut. The result is a solid record that does a lot to establish their song writing credentials. Ultimately, though, it lacks the personality to keep from falling into an abyss it seems to have created for itself.