Autodrone last released a full length in 2008 on Clairecords, Strike a Match. Their shoegazer, bliss pop debut would sadly not see a second release, at least not until now. For Autodrone fans, the wait may be over. In 2016, Autordrone have produced This Sea is Killing Me, their second full length after eight long years of waiting. This time, however, the outing is darker and heaver, with goth and dark wave influences in the mix. Susanna Melendez is no longer the singer as well with a lineup change that includes Katherine Kennedy now as lead vox. She brings a wonderfully dark and dreamy presence to the music. This Sea is Killing Me is a mixture of ambient, shoegaze, dark wave, electronica, and goth mixed to create beautifully crafted tracks.
The first track, “49_51” is a set of vibrating, electronic drones, pops, and noises that sets the mood for the disc. It is brief, clocking in at 2:16, and acts as an overall intro to the disc. The intro stops abruptly and leads the listener into feedback and then “Corvus” begins with a slowly pulsing electronic hook and shimmering guitars. The track clocks in at 3:35 and sets a pattern for the songs to follow. The album is set up with a short track and then a long track throughout, creating a sense of ebb and flow or perhaps, short breathes and long breathes. It’s effective and the pattern is consistent. The pulsing electric hook and shimmering guitars give way to a wall of sound that sits on the previous bed. Katherine Kennedy’s recessed, dreamy vocal contributes to the blissed out soundscapes. The next track on the album is far more mournful. “Exit Ghost” creates a clearly dark wave, melancholy atmosphere filled with organ and glittering guitar. Perhaps what we have here is an exorcism of a sort, as the drums march us onward into the next track, clearing the way for more ethereal soundscapes.
“Exit Ghost” leads into “High Dying Sun” and the first track on the disc that has this hopeful, blissed out feel to it. The drums are pulsating and the guitars hum and move in and out of the spaces in the soundscape. As the track builds, the guitars get deeper and wider. Katherine lends her dreamy voice to the mix, creating an ethereal atmosphere. This track really introduces the listener to Terry Taylor’s drumming style. He’s emotive and there is always a sense that he plays to the edge as if he is going to lose it but never does. “Lay of the Land” is the longest track on the disc and it begins with a low humming cello sound that creates a base for a beautiful sparkling guitar line. The listener is invited to float along with the band as Katherine sings over a bed of blissed out wonder. This central track to the disc really showcases the bands ability to bring out the walls of sound and to keep beautiful drones just pumping through the speakers. At around 6 minutes, the beat changes up and organ lines begin to play over the bed of sounds. It’s a great track and certainly one of the highlights of the disc.
“Le Voleur” has a syncopated drum pattern and twinkling guitars with fuzzed out bass. The guitars in this track remind me a little of Thedaysleepers, which is a compliment. The guitars also play these great hooks along the top of the fuzz and thumping drums that play well off of the melodies Katherine is singing. “Le Voleur” is certainly a wonderful piece of songwriting and, I hope, will be a single once the album is released. “Like Water in my Lungs” has this great cadence with guitars that hum along in fuzzed out drones under a very infections guitar hook. Eventually, the song speeds up, expressing what seems to be the frustrating of the song title… suffocation at the hands of everything around. However, the song allows you to breathe, if the reader will allow me to go there. It returns to the graceful guitar hook and droning, fuzzy guitars. The track seems to have this ominous reflection of reality pointing toward the sort of drowning life can give each of us at certain periods of life.
“The Way Way Down” definitely has the most different feel on the record. It bounces along and Katherine’s vocals are brought up in the mix. Fuzzed out bass pulsates with the beat and guitars play around along with an organ. I’m not sure how I feel about this particular track given the feel of the rest of the album. It’s not that the track is bad but rather, sticks out from the rest of the disc and seems misplaced. Perhaps that is the track’s purpose. On the other hand, “Thunderbolt” is a gorgeous track. Bass drum thumps in time while keys create drones. The full band eventually comes in with guitars and bass. Katherine once again provides her vocals that create this dreamy state for the listener. The finale, “Witness to a Ghost”, ties into the overall album’s feel and theme. I get the feeling that the ghost from track 3 has returned to haunt the listener and, perhaps, accompany the listener out to sea. This track also has a more goth, dark wave feel, tying together other elements of the album. It’s an apropos final track to a wonderful disc.
This Sea is Killing Me has beautiful, luscious tracks that move the listener between bright, blissed out soundscapes and darker, more melancholy moments. The album is a strong comeback for Autodrone and fans will not be disappointed. Let’s just hope it’s not another 8 years before we get another album from them.
You can listen to This Sea is Killing Me here: Autodrone Soundcloud