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A Journey Through Roman's Empire

Athletic Automaton

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Album Review

As a duo sporting matching jerseys, tight shorts, tube socks, and headbands, Athletic Automaton rocks out marathon noise rock tantrums that test the most seasoned music listener's physical endurance. Drummer Patrick Crump pounds out fills furiously as guitarist Steve Mattos interlays repetitive riffs with a lap steel run through distortion pedals. In true noise rock fashion, there isn't a set structure to the songs, but instead songs that feature what sounds like Animal from The Muppets bashing away while feedback whirs up and down like an electric razor buzzing stubble in the background. Despite only using two instruments, it's an exceptionally challenging earful (just as most Skin Graft releases are) and an experiment in tension seemingly built to ask the question, "What is music?" Crump's venom fuels the near-torturous thrashing, which rarely builds up to a climax as much as it relentlessly flails until grinding to an exhausted halt. As the saying goes, there's a fine line between stupid and clever, and depending on the listener's perspective, they will find the reckless noodling either audacious and suffocating, or profound and mind-blowing. From start to finish, it's a bludgeoning, difficult, improvisational head trip that ignores typical conventions. If it made sense, it wouldn't be noise rock. Instead of adhering to standard form, the two musicians (depending on your definition) trade places in a game of follow the leader, gradually shifting pace and trying to predict each other's next move. There's a strong chemistry here and that shows; unfortunately, because the songs are so relentless and repetitive, it's only a matter of time before the cat and mouse game becomes tiresome. In an attempt to introduce a new element, on "The Smaller Ball Game" Mattos steps away from his axe to bang wildly on the keyboard, striking dissonant combinations of keys in off-beat patterns and Crump sets down his sticks to tinker singular notes on the bass. In a live setting, this sort of interchangeability would be a nice change of pace, as this is a group who relies on their visual presence as much as their sound. They're meant to be seen flailing around and grimacing in their tight B-ball uniforms at an ear blowing volume. That said, it's questionable whether or not they'd be nearly as successful without the gimmicky outfits, and the musical outbursts presented on A Journey Through Roman's Empire are ultimately more irritating than satisfying.

Biography

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Hailing from Providence, RI (home of fellow high-decibel noise rockers Lightning Bolt), Athletic Automaton took their musical cue from the local Fort Thunder collective of bands and quickly gained notoriety performing equally explosive sets while wearing tight '70s basketball uniforms and sweatbands. Ex-Arab on Radar guitarist Stephen Mattos joined forces with ex-Pellum 123 drummer Patrick Crump and the duo put out a split with Made in Mexico in 2006. After signing to the Skin Graft roster, in September...
Full bio
A Journey Through Roman's Empire, Athletic Automaton
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  • 8,99 €
  • Genres: Alternative, Music
  • Released: 21 August 2007

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