Back in late 2004, Autolux released their acclaimed shoegaze meets post-punk debut, Future Perfect. Following the release of Future Perfect, the Los Angeles-based trio toured extensively around the world, supporting the likes of Nine Inch Nails and PJ Harvey, in addition to making two appearances at the Coachella Festival. During these six years, they issued “Audience No. 2” as a single and debuted new material at various live gigs; however, a new album or EP never came to fruition. That is, until now with Transit Transit. While the wait hasn’t been as eternal as it was for, say, Axl Rose’s Chinese Democracy or Portishead’s Third, it has been an uncommonly long one. So, was it worth the wait?
As revealed by the opening track of the same name, Transit Transit represents a departure in sound for the Los Angeles trio. The titular track is soft and polished, rather than raw and noisy, centered around piano refrains instead of guitar fuzz, with the sound of a slammed freezer door looped throughout serving as percussion. Despite sounding remarkably different, it still manages to successfully come across as Autolux.
The group’s guitar-centric sound of yesteryear does surface on tracks like “Census” and “Supertoys”. The former begins by building up to a frenzied rocker but winds down to a seductive bass groove, transitioning perfectly into the spacey, electronic beats of “Highchair”. On the latter, the back-and-forth vocals of drummer Carla Azar on the chorus and bassist Eugene Goreshter on the verses add a dreamy quality to the sea of guitar noise and thunderous drums. The moody “Headless Sky” is built around the drone of a short guitar riff that’s looped throughout the song and illustrates how much Autolux can do with so little.
Transit Transit is actually at its most enthralling when they leave the guitars behind, as they do on the minimalist “Spots”. On this track, My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth are completely left behind, and the haunt of the piano and the sparseness in its composition make for some rich, gorgeously textured soundscapes. On “The Science of Imaginary Solutions”, the best of both sides to Autolux come together, beginning as a piano ballad yet ending with Azar’s hypnotic vocals, all washed away by a sea of guitar feedback.
Unfortunately, some fans will inevitably be turned off by the new direction Autolux has taken here. For everyone else, including new listeners, Transit Transit is a compelling exploration of the sonic territories of noise and ambiance. To answer the question above, it’s an album worth the long wait and, much like Menomena’s latest, is best served with headphones.