Front cover of ‘Dissemble’
by Ed Biggs
Leeds’ pysch-rock / post-punk resurgence has really begun to yield impressive albums over the last couple of years. The scene’s biggest names Eagulls and Hookworms have both produced quality records celebrated in these pages since 2013, and now a second wave of intense, guitar-toting young men has followed in their wake, including Forever Cult and AUTOBAHN. That Kraftwerk-aping name is a bit of a red herring – you might expect this five-piece to be wielding synths rather than guitars – but it does speak to their desire to make metronomic, monolithic music. Having caught their impressive, tightly disciplined live act on three occasions and witnessed continual improvement over the space of 14 months, their full-length debut Dissemble delivers on the promise their theatrical stage presence has always suggested.
Despite the sometimes cringeworthy, White Lies-esque song titles like ‘Beautiful Place To Die’ and ‘Suicide Saturday’, AUTOBAHN display a detailed and nuanced understanding of their genre, laying out ten eminently solid and often spectacular compounds of space rock and post-punk revivalism that, while oppressively heavy, never plod or misfire. This is thanks to the accomplished rhythm section of drummer Liam Hilton and bassist Daniel Sleight, who are so tightly interlocked that their rhythms suggest perpetual motion machines rather than humans. This is crossed with a lattice-work of droning guitars from Gavin Cobb and Michael Pedel. Opener ‘Missing In Action’, with its accelerating drum intro that rattles slowly into view, immediately delivers the listener to the slate-grey skies of the post-industrial North, a sound channelled by every post-punk act since Joy Division.
However, AUTOBAHN’s sound is also indebted to their Leeds-based ancestors Sisters Of Mercy, with a distinctly gothic and macabre atmosphere that indicates a black sense of humour underneath the grim façade. Craig Johnson’s treated, masked vocals hang waif-like over the mixes, imploring and warning in stentorian tones. “Depression is worse… can’t contain” he murmurs in broken fragments of lyrics in ‘Impressionist’ while his band strike up an energetic impersonation of early Interpol. They do break from the template on occasion, showing enough invention to get outside of their comfort zone and dabble convincingly in different waters, such as the weird backward drums and miasma of disconnected voices on the brief title track and the booming drums and jagged rhythms of closer ‘Deprivation’.
There is something quietly reverential about the mix that stops AUTOBAHN from teetering over into the chasm of self-parody. Instead, it neatly slots into a legacy of fine, Northern post-punk. They understand their genre so inherently that they don’t sound workman-like in creating that well-worn, sepulchral sound, and add a few of their own bits into it. John Robb, in his 10/10 review for Louder Than War, called Dissemble “a celebration of the beauty of sadness and the daring to be emotional in these irony-laced times.” While it’s not quite that good, there is something honest and true about it that makes it all work where so many recent British post-punkers have fallen down, and it’s most definitely an accomplished debut that promises a lot for the future. (8/10)
Listen to Dissemble here!
Tags: album, AUTOBAHN, Craig Johnson, Daniel Sleight, Dissemble, Ed Biggs, Gavin Cobb, Liam Hilton, Michael Pedel, review
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