John Costello – Autotron EP review

Well isn’t this rather nice? We’ve been sent a CD to review through the post! So impressed by our amazing critical faculties after reading our Vile Electrodes album review that they felt we were ideal to give a solid and fair review of their work.

So let’s see what we can make of this CD then.

Perhaps it’s necessary to tell you what Autotron means, after all we didn’t know until we read about it on John’s bandcamp page. Apparently it means “A person existing in servitude to a corrupt system whose control is so effective that the subject is either unaware of being exploited and perceives itself as essentially free, or is aware but chooses to live in a state of perpetual denial.”  So that does pretty much set the scene for us of that future dystopia style atmosphere right away. So that’s basically an atmosphere of now then really isn’t it?

We tend to feel that really John must be aiming for more that atmosphere of the 80s/90s post-Bladerunner like sci fi films as those are the images that spring to mind with the songs on this collection. A time when it seems perpetually night and lit solely by flashing neon lights. A land were we have cyborgs and cyborg hunters. And though the word has seemed to be very much corrupted now into things we don’t really like anymore, it is really that cyberpunk atmosphere. The traditional sense. William Gibson like. The type of world realised by Ridley Scott (when he was still capable of making good films).

We’re talking life under the flyover. Strict geometry and clean lines. A stark concrete vision in black and grey.

There’s a deftness of touch on display here. Songs with a dark atmosphere but without the need for the boring over ‘thumpy’ sound that so much ‘EBM’ ‘Cyber’ music has. Proving you can have melody, you can have hooks and you don’t have to turn everything up to eleven. You can have almost Kraftwerk-like beats that are danceable without the same old thump.

There’s an identity there that sets it apart from the aforementioned bands, after all when you’ve heard that 4 on the floor distorted bassdrum once you’ve heard it a million times (almost certainly if you go to any kind of industrial/ebm night).  It’s a sound which seems to come from and build upon those portrayed by John Foxx, Kraftwerk and Numan in their earlier years. It’s taking those influences and running with them, building expanding and combining to produce something fresh.

The EP felt like there was a certain element to the sound that seemed slightly familiar and the cd credits reveal  Geoff Pinckney of Tenek has had a hand in the production and engineering. Which would indeed explain things. Which isn’t to say that it sounds like Tenek, but there are certain sounds to the mixing which are perhaps familiar echoes of his production style. We certainly think that this music would complement Tenek very well in any live show.

Most of the vocals on the CD are put through some kind of effect which can make it pretty hard to understand what is being sung about but handily the lyrics are printed on the cds liner booklet.

Again much like with the Vile Electrodes CD we have to offer up some criticism but it’s mainly that we’re not hugely fond of that artwork.  While it is distinctive at least, it doesn’t seem to fully reflect the atmospheres of the music. We think that really the rear cover artwork would have been more representative of the atmospheres within.

But that’s a pretty minor point, we’d certainly wholeheartedly recommend this ep, particularly for anyone who has ever fancied the idea of looking cool in shades and a trenchcoat.

Go buy at John’s Bandcamp page It’s only £2 for a digital download and £5 to get the physical. Which is pretty much giving it away, frankly.

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