Automat: Automat

In an ideal world, Automat is what industrial music would have grown into, something which acknowledges the roads its founding members paved without imitating them in the process.



Artist website:
Label: Bureau B
US Release Date: 2014-04-29
UK Release Date: 2014-04-07

Here are two important things you should know about Automat before listening to it: (1) it is not a reissue of the 1978 electro album by Italian duo Romano Musumarra and Claudio Gizzi, and (2) despite this 2014 release featuring guest appearances by Blixa Bargeld, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Lydia Lunch, it is far from being a harsh listen. Still, Automat is an album at least partially about Berlin’s four airports, so the influence of industrial music does not end with its special guests. Rather mercifully, the characteristics Automat shares with its featured vocalists is brought about in subtler ways, employing rhythmic repetition and guitar effects in a way that suggests factory-dotted landscapes and endless, dark city streets. In an ideal world, Automat is what industrial music would have grown into, something which acknowledges the roads its founding members paved without imitating them in the process.

Automat’s three members—Jochen Arbeit, Achim Farber, and Zeitblom—have previously appeared in such acts as Die Haut, Project Pitchfork and Sovetskoe Foto, respectively. The traits the trio has brought to these past endeavors are easily discernable here, with sawing guitar, racing percussion, and unrelenting bass all taking key roles. The pulse of a city is embodied perfectly by the rhythmic touches throughout the album, with Zeitblom’s dub-influenced basslines acting as a huge standout. This is particularly true on “The Streets”, where the bass and Arbeit’s guitar zoom around Lydia Lunch’s sometimes whispery, sometimes breathy, always raspy vocals. Some unrelenting cymbal work from Farber heightens the already at tipping point tension the song’s elements have created.

The Genesis Breyer P-Orridge collaboration, “Mount Tamalpais”, at first appears to give a little breathing space, starting on a slightly ambient foot as P-Orridge talks of a wounded, flightless bird. Soon the throbs and pulses are back, as the song seems to recount either a frightening chemically-induced experience or the famous plane crash that occurred at Mount Tamalpais in the 1940’s. Given the album’s overarching theme, the latter interpretation is just a guess, but it is obvious that whatever is going on in the song, it’s not pleasant. The way P-Orridge’s voice floats over the song’s soundscape certainly suggests something unnervingly out of body.

The album’s third track featuring a vocalist, “Am Schlachtensee”, is perhaps its most successful, simply due to Blixa Bargeld’s inability of phoning in a vocal appearance. The song creates a whirlpool in combining its various elements, its electro bips undulating menacingly to the surface and overpowering Bargeld’s severe tones. For a song named after a lake, it is far from serene as its digital nuances undermine the naturalism suggested in the song’s title.

Automat’s four instrumental songs, “THF”, “SXF”, “TXF”, and “GWW”, have no shortage of suspense and prove Automat’s three core members are just as adept at creating a mood when special guests aren’t involved. Despite the repetitive nature of this sort of music, the background of each member allows for a fun game of influence-spotting, while also allowing those influences to result in a more unique whole than the average electro-tinged, vocalless release in this day. Given that each track heightens the pulse as it goes along, Automat may not be ideal background or everyday music, but both taking apart its pieces and thrilling at it as a whole earns the album many repeat listens.





'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.


Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.


Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.


Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.


Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.


British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.


Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".


In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.


Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.


Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.


Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.


Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.


'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.


Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.


From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.


Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.


Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".


On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.