Autophonia – nolite te bastardes carborundorum

4.15.19 by Ryan Masteller

When drones (the musical ones, not the remote-controlled helicopters) come to you, they often come as they are: serene, scenic, deferential, polite, gentle, constant, rich. You don’t have to guess with a drone. You don’t fool around with sound sources or intent – you just let that drone wash over you and release the feelings that it’s supposed to release. A good drone moves effortlessly, without any friction tugging at its progress.

I once believed these things fully, but I’m not sure I do anymore.

Autophonia’s drones are incredibly complex, acoustically derived, and emotionally resonant. The trio, “consisting of Jennifer Slezak (mandolin and violin), Jen Powers (hammer dulcimer), and Stephanie Dean (accordion),” improvised these five tracks – improvised them! – as if the sounds had been living within their bodies all their lives. The moment these three performers entered the studio together, the sounds, like spirits, exited their bodies through their instruments, only to be captured by the recording engineer through the dark magic of the studio switchboard. From there they were transferred to cassette tape, from which audio emanates that almost assuredly assumes corporeal form as soon as the encoded material traverses the tape head. Surely the music hear lives and breathes in some capacity long after the moment it’s heard.

These are no mere drones – they shift perceptibly at the players’ command, taking on shapes and textures that fit more comfortably into the nooks and crannies between post-rock bombasts. But the absence of the one doesn’t define the other – the gentle ruminations of “nolite te bastardes carborundorum” defines itself, “a document of a live performance” – an organic unfolding – “not a studio creation.” And although “nolite te bastardes carborundorum” does indeed translate to the very post-rocky “do not let the bastards grind you down,” it holds on to that hopeful sentiment that there’s a space beyond the drudgery and violence for solace and rest. Now THAT I believe – and once you hear how Slezak, Powers, and Dean deftly and discreetly join forces before repurposing a seeming delicateness into real emotional power, you’ll believe it too.

Available now from Scioto Records.