Lower Automation – Lower Automation Review

Noise-rock and mathcore haters need not listen to Lower Automation. The rest of you do.1 Lower Automation play a boisterous screamo-grind like you’d get from SeeYouSpaceCowboy boiling with hyperactive bass lines and pedal-board lust. What they excel at are antics: guitar parts that chirp at the very peak of the fretboard, stick-clicking percussion breaks, and bouts of sardonic wailing. If Daughters had gone through a severe Mr. Bungle binge when writing Canada Songs, Lower Automation would be a much less original record. But as it is, the Chicago three piece’s debut LP is one of the year’s most unpredictable and unique releases.

With those influences, it’s no surprise that Lower Automation can sling wild songs. Opener “6 Degrees From Phrenology” is a barn-burner, with riffs that alternate between angular slides and white-knuckle strumming, pasted together with a slobbering of slick bass licks. Other smash-and-grab numbers like “Combover” and the 89-second “Dressed in Camo, Hyped to the Teeth” use similar tactics and are just as gripping. The latter stitches in a few sampled and high-passed drum solos to complement its wild riffing, while the former stumbles through 1:44 without any special augmentations. A couple of the longer cuts — “Vegan Neuroscientist” and “Old Sparky” — lack some of the madcap vigor of these bite-sized numbers, but they never drag. Like the best grindcore, Lower Automation makes complete songs of short tracks, but the record has more to offer than just quick thrills.

Lower Automation’s frenetic compositions never cease their tumult, but the source of the band’s mania is a truly human core. The band’s post-hardcore tendencies create an intimacy beneath their ragged noise. The ragged “dread” is just as anxious as its name suggests, but it’s sold wonderfully by cries, sighs, and glitching guitar riffs. Across the record, guitarist Derek’s vocals swing between moans, croons, and high-register shouts reminiscent of Cedric Bixler-Zavala, delivering most in the gripping closer “Ruiner.” In the last few minutes of the record, Lower Automation cool off for a few vulnerable measures, climaxing in a moody but still maddening finale that foreshadows greater things to come.

Lower Automation Band 2021At twenty-one minutes, Lower Automation doesn’t have much time to lose selling the band, but it’s hard to find a second wasted on the record. The trio are tight as a tire bead and spin through performances with precise balance. Derek’s vocals may ground the record, but it’s the singer’s pyrotechnic guitar work that provides the most shock and awe, writhing and scratching through tangled phrases that would make Ben Weinmann grin. They’re countered by Brian’s ever-evolving bass lines and Matt’s precise but unpredictable drumming. The way the trio cycle through the spotlight is downright mesmerizing, never placing one sound front and center for more than a few seconds and jumping between rhythms on the same timescale. There’s a clear reference here to the one- and two-beat-at-a-time micro-phrases of The Dillinger Escape Plan, but Lower Automation’s cover of “43% Burnt” would probably last less than sixty seconds. The band absolutely sprints through Lower Automation, and the breakneck pace makes the record instantly replayable.

While this release is likely to grate many listeners into a quesadilla filling, there’s a good chance fans of Lower Automation’s influences will listen to it three times in a row. In the time your average black metal band takes to resolve a single riff, Lower Automation can pack in half a song, and it’s a damn good one. Even in their less memorable songs, the band never lose my attention or lean on a weak idea, performing with a sure-footed spontaneity that recalls the early EPs of Three Trapped Tigers. As a debut LP, I could hardly expect more from Lower Automation, and even a cursory run through the band’s back catalog confirms that Lower Automation are poised to become one of the premiere bands in the greater mathcore metropolitan area.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Zegema Beach Records
Websites: lowerautomation.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/lowerautomation
Releases Worldwide: July 12th, 2021

Show 1 footnote
  1. Is there anyone left? – Holdeneye
« »