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Automatic City - “Bongoes & Tremoloes” (2017) review


Automatic City - Bongoes & Tremoloes (Stag-O-Lee Records, 2017)

One of the most unique bands of today, and one that simply defies definition, Automatic City, is a most talented lot, and prove it with the release of their first full length LP “Bongoes & Tremoloes” released on the Stag-O-Lee label in May of 2017. The thirteen track release is filled with gorgeous melodies, employing exotic instruments played with incredible talent and zest.

The album opens with the short, just over 30 seconds, “Spaced Out In The Sticks” a feedback drenched piece of electronic music. The first conventional track on “Bongoes & Tremoloes” is a cover of Billy Boy Arnold’s “I Wish You Would” perhaps best known as a tune covered by The Yardbirds. Automatic City delivers its bluesy version with incredible slide guitar work by Emmanuel Mercier. Mercier is accompanied by delightful percussion, especially the bongos of Zaza Desiderlo.  “Crawfish” is the longest cut on the album, barely, at just over four minutes. The bongo intro gives way to gorgeous electric guitar by Mercier. Eric Duperray’s lead vocals are absolutely beautiful, and the stripped down sound features a most tasteful guitar solo by Mercier. This bluesy number is definitely one of the highlights of the album. The album’s title track is a very short, twenty two second, number filled with percussion and feedback. A cover of Billy Emerson’s “Satisfaction” is another stripped down blues tune, featuring Mercier’s guitar, gorgeous Rhythm Ace drum machine, more tasty bongos and melodic vocals, with Mercier delivering an understated, restrained guitar solo.  “Resolution Blues” a band original, written by Eric Duperray begins with electric guitar and is another nicely stripped down bit of blues featuring gorgeous vocal harmonies by Duperray and Mercier. “Evil Eye On Me” is a three minute Duperray penned original, featuring stylophone and guitar by Mercier and lovely vocals by Duperray. A cover of Willie Dixon’s “Mellow Down Easy” perhaps best known for its cover by Little Walter for Chess Records is highlighted by Mercier’s acoustic guitar solo, more bongos and percussion from Desiderlo, with Duperray’s vocals becoming an instrument all its own. The forty one second “Moonshine Twang” displays the group’s vocal abilities, this time in chant form. Automatic City’s cover of Chuck Berry’s “Havana Moon” is memorable for the wonderful slide guitar performance of Mercier, with Desiderlo’s percussion added for texture. The slightly more than four minute performance of R.L. Burnside’s “Goin’ Down South” features a spoken intro, which is quickly joined by percussion, drum machine and acoustic guitar. Chants of “moon and sun” and “I’d rather be dead” are accompanied by Mercier’s electric guitar and his very tasteful performance on theremin. This tune rocks harder than any other on the LP and is a delight to the listener’s ear. The trippy, space rock tune “More Spaced Out In The Sticks” runs barely over a minute but contains a memorable theremin contribution by Mercier and gorgeous bongo rolls by Desiderlo. The album closes with the two minute eleven second “Puppet Made Of Shipwrecked Wood” with tremolo tinged guitar by Mercier and vocal harmonies courtesy of Duperray and Mercier, a most pleasant end to a most enjoyable album. One thing of note not previously mentioned are the fine double bass performances of Raphael Vellade throughout “Bongoes & Tremeloes.” His contributions fit the band’s sound so nicely that they are ever present,yet rarely noticed, and never to the fore of the band’s sound.

The LP of “Bongoes & Tremeloes” is accompanied by a CD so that the album may be enjoyed while driving or if one is to so choose, the CD can be played while the vinyl remains virgin. That, thanks to the band, is the choice of the listener. The album was recorded live on November 1, 2 and 3, 2016, mixed and mastered by Emmanuel Mercier with the exception of “Satisfied” which was mixed by Herve Bessenay, who mastered the LP at Electrophonic Recording Studio, and the artwork is by www.jeudimidi.com. A wonderful bit of stripped down electronic rock blues, “Bongoes & Tremoloes” comes most highly recommended. The band’s unique sound makes it a most compelling and enjoyable listening experience.

- Kevin Rathert
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