April 6, 2016 — “Brainwasher” by Autolux


If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Brainwasher” by Autolux (2016, from the album Pussy’s Dead).

Autolux is an experimental/noise/shoegaze/psychpop trio from Los Angeles. They’ve been around since 2000, but they’ve only released three proper albums, including the new one Pussy’s Dead, which just came out last week. I like it quite a bit. Autolux has a lot of noisy guitar parts, and sometimes those guitars sound like something from a Sonic Youth record or a Pavement record. Really, though, this band is all about drummer Carla Azar. Her heavy-handed fills, her non-traditional patterns, and her “funky” technique draw comparisons to Jaki Liebezeit (out of Can) and John Bonham. I’ve never seen Autolux, but everything that I’ve read suggests that she’s a marvel to watch.

In 2002, after the band had only released an EP, they somehow found themselves on tour with Elvis Costello. After they played a set, Azar jumped off stage, tripped on a cord, and demolished her elbow. I don’t know if it was her right or left, but it was apparently broken in three places. The reconstruction required several screws and part of her hip. Apparently, all of the doctors who worked with said that it was the worst break they’d ever seen. They also all told her that she wouldn’t be able to play drums again. And just like that guy in that movie, she proved them all wrong.

The band’s 2004 debut album Future Perfect was kicked off by a raucous Bonham-esque drum solo in the song “Turnstile Blues”, and a lot of people say that those 10 seconds are the very definition of the band. I was late to the boat on that album, but I really loved it once I found out about it. The 2010 album Transit Transit got favorable reviews, but somehow, I missed the boat on that one as well. This new record just came out, and I didn’t have any particular expectations. I got it as soon as I could, but I waited a while before I finally listened to it. I was completely floored by it. I was busy doing something else while I had the album on, but it stopped me in my tracks a couple of times. This song was one of the times.

The album features a bit of programmed drums in addition to Azar’s fantastic live drumming. It’s also got a good deal of electronic elements, and there’s something that’s slightly Kid A-ish about all of that. And I mean that in the best way. This song is no exception to that.

Here’s the official video, anyway:
“Brainwasher” by Autolux

I really dig the fills, and one of the times through that drum fill sequence, it’s slightly busier and bigger. It’s the passage from 2:11 to 2:15. It’s like a bit of controlled chaos.

There’s much more brilliance on this record, and I highly recommend the songs “Junk for Code” and “Listen to the Order”.

Pussy’s Dead was released on April 1. You can order a physical copy here, or a digital copy from Amazon here.

Also, for fun, you should watch the movie “Frank”, in which Azar plays the drummer in an avant-garde synth pop band alongside Michael Fassbender (in the titular role) and Maggie Gyllenhaal, among others. It’s a weird but fascinating movie in which the main character is based on this guy. Azar doesn’t have very many speaking lines, but she does get to play the drums a lot. It’s a very weird movie, but I like it. It’s available on Netflix streaming. Or at least it is in the US.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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