By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Some artists are so good they get in their own way. And sometimes the world and events just conspire against them.
Los Angeles-based trio Autolux might be the poster child for these cruel realities.
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How about the time in 2002 that drummer Carla Azar crushed her elbow in a potentially career-ending backstage fall? The joint, fortunately, was repaired—albeit in a risky procedure that included the use of eight titanium screws.
What of the two years after completing tours supporting the band's stellar 2004 debut Future Perfect, where principal songwriter and guitarist/vocalist Greg Edwards admittedly "lost his way"?
Or how about the folding of the DMZ record label formed by the Coen Brothers and T-Bone Burnett, who made Autolux their first signing, ultimately shocking and confusing the Sony label sponsors expecting music in the vein of O Brother, Where Art Thou rather than the next My Bloody Valentine? And speaking of MBV: How about Autolux's late cancelation of their appearance at last year's All Tomorrow's Parties event, which was curated by My Bloody Valentine, so that Edwards could be available for his child's birth?
In the face of such traumas, the band was finally able to release its six-years-coming sophomore effort, Transit Transit, in August. Perhaps just as satisfying and important for fans, the band is finally on a nationwide tour again. And while Transit Transit has left some fans scratching their heads the same way Kid A affected fans of OK Computer, this much isn't debatable: The chance to see Autolux live is something not to be squandered.
Speaking with Edwards, who prior to Autolux served as the bassist in the band Failure, on the eve of their tour launch, he admits that getting Transit Transit released was something of a challenge.
"I was doing lots of sonic dabbling that sounded really interesting, but could never really translate into performance pieces for playing live," explains Edwards.
In addition, he got married (to Raveonettes vocalist Sharon Foo), and was spending part of each year in her native Denmark. The band finally reconvened about 18 months ago, restarting the recording process. While the first record was produced by Fort Worth native Burnett, the band decided to record the album in their rehearsal space and self-produce this release, with Edwards serving as sound engineer.
"If the sound wasn't coming out the way it was supposed to, I had to figure out why," Edwards says.
The result is that Edwards, Azar and bassist Eugene Goresheter have released an album that provides some musical bridges back to Future Perfect but is much more sonically nuanced. Azar's complex rhythmic signatures (she's been a go-to session drummer for Joe Henry, P.J. Harvey, John Frusciante and Burnett, among others) are mixed with electronic beats and processed, recorded sounds (like the freezer door in Edward's Copenhagen house), as all three performers share vocals. The songs that tie Transit Transit to Future Perfect (initial single "Supertoys" and "Census") satisfy those craving the old sound. But it's the disc's more minimalist title track and closer, "The Science of Imaginary Solutions," that is more likely to draw listeners in and keep them over time.
Six years is a long time between albums. Long enough, it seems, for Autolux to have found their way once again.