Automatic
Signal
Stone’s Throw Records

Automatic are an LA trio comprised of Izzy Glaudini on vocals and synths, Halle Gaines on bass and vocals and Lola Dompé on drums and vocals.  They take their name from a 1982 track by the Go Gos, one of LA’s most iconic bands.  They play a cross between no-wave and post-punk, based on tight bass lines and crisp drums, and Glaudini’s detached voice and her synth flourishes.  They also play catchy as shit music.

Their no wave/post-punk sound comes naturally, as Dompé is the daughter of Kevin Haskins, the drummer for Bauhaus, Tones on Tail, and Love & Rockets.  That means she’s the niece of David J., the bassist of Bauhaus and Love & Rockets.

There is significance to both Dompé’s lineage and the band’s name.  The GoGos were the first all-woman band that both played its own instruments and wrote its own songs to go number 1.  And Automatic arise out of a frustration with the hyper masculine music scene in LA.  And then there’s Dompé’s father.  She formed her first band when she was 13, called BlackBlack, pounding on the drums, and anything else she could find.  Her style is more automated and crisper than her dad’s, but he also remains one of the great underrated drummers of rock history.

Clocking in at 32 minutes, Signal doesn’t just not overstay its welcome, it leaves you wanting more.  ‘Too Much Money’ opens with Gaines’ bassline before Dompé and Glaudini join the party.  Glaudini alternates her voice between a higher pitch and a dead-flat delivery.  More than anything else, it is Gaines’ bass that drives Automatic’s music, though she is usually joined by Dompé’s drums, which are, I have to say, occasionally reminiscent of her father’s, in that they are crisp and militaristic at times, though Haskins was more of a skin pounder than he’s ever given credit for (hell, Bauhaus a lot heavier than anyone ever gives them credit for).

The mixture of Glaudini’s synth over the very minimalist, automatic sounds from Gaines and Dompé make on their instruments.  This creates haunting, almost spooky music.  The feeling is somewhat modified by Glaudini’s voice, but only sometimes.  For the most part, she sings in that dead-pan monotone.  The result is reminiscent of 1980s synth music, as well as some earlier Ladytron.

‘I Love You, Fine’ might be my favourite track.  It starts with Gaines’ bass, before Glaudini drops a Joy Division-esque synth riff over top.  It’s the kind of music that sense a shiver up your back, as it is reminiscent of a Bela Lugosi-era horror movie.  But then Dompé arrives on the scene, and we get into a song, complete with a wonderful chorus of ‘I love you, fine.’  Glaudini is apparently not the most emotive romantic partner.

My next track, ‘Highway,’ perhaps best displays Bompé’s mechanical playing, starting off with her kick drum in a quick, mechanical sounding cadence before she settles into the 4/4 beat of crisp high hat and snare. All the while, Gaines’ bass lies underneath and Glaudini’s synth dances over top.  Whilst Gaines does not play the bass quite like Peter Hook, there is still a New Order sound to her bass line, and the single lyric is Glaudini repeating ‘I drive all night/I drive.’

‘Electrocution’ is one of the creepiest tracks, as Glaudini’s synth line to me sounds like an electric surge, and causing that titular electrocution.  Her vocals are also both monotonal and distance.  Even the do-do backup vocals can’t make this a light song. The song may be about a love affair and end, but the manner of delivery also reflects that dead feeling one gets after it ends, the numbness.

This is Automatic’s first full-length album and, despite the fact their influences can be felt across it, they also bring a fresh sound and voice to the current explosion of post-punk and no wave bands.  Signal is a mighty fine album.