Louderbach: Autumn

A Minus album channeling Joy Division? Indeed so. The first clue is the ornate cover photograph and design—a far cry from the prototypical austere minimalism of one-time Minus releases. Autumn finds Louderbach, a joint project by Berliner Troy Pierce and LA-based singer Gibby Miller, progressing from its prior instrumental incarnation (documented on Enemy Love) to a song-based outfit whose dark vibe suggests affinities to Bauhaus and Coil, in addition to the aforementioned Factory Records band.

As if purposefully distancing itself from anything remotely resembling minimal techno, “Autumn” begins the album with brooding tones, gaseous emissions, and distorted monotone utterances by Miller (“Wandering…with lust… Gathering…like dust”). “Seems Like Static” offsets the claustrophobic feel of the echo-laden vocal with a dance pulse that begins restrainedly but grows progressively more animated and acidy. The material's indebtedness to the post-punk era is already apparent by the second song in a vocal style that variously recalls Ian Curtis and Peter Murphy. “One Hundred Reasons” opens in Plastikman mode (circa Consumed ) before expanding into a throbbing, industrial grinder, while “Notes” seems an obvious single choice, given how seductively the song merges Miller's panting delivery with a pumping disco pulse, and the funky drum fill that ends the song's recurrent breakdowns make a strong impression. “Nothing More than a White Poison” moves Louderbach to the center of the dance floor for an exercise in plastic-boogie and soul-funk squiggle. Miller waxes ecstatically (“I want you…”) against a shape-shifting base of hammering, hot-wired synth-funk. Strip Miller's breathy drawl from “So This is Control” and you're left with an infectious, driving house groove boosted by a rising synth motif. Interestingly, at disc's end, the disco skip and vocal melodies of “Shine” push the song more towards New Order's orbit than Joy Division's.

So does it work? Generally speaking, yes. In keeping with the Minus brand, Autumn has a strong techno core but it's altered by the ominous chill of Miller's singing—a decent enough vocalist, incidentally, though one whose comparatively bland delivery doesn't match the charisma and personality of Curtis's singing—and icy synthetic colourations that lend the album a fractured and industrial character. As should be obvious, the album is also far from one-dimensional as the duo pursues multiple stylistic directions without compromising the Louderbach identity.

May 2009