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Athletic Automaton / Made in Mexico - Split CD

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Artist: Athletic Automaton / Made in Mexico

Album: Split CD

Label: New Addition

Review date: Aug. 30, 2004

After the sudden dissolution of Arab on Radar, new adventures for the former members seemed to happen almost immediately. Vocalist Eric Paul and drummer Craig Kureck, along with Richard Ivan Pelletier (formerly of Six Finger Satellite) and Paul Vieria, formed The Chinese Stars, a band whose damaged guitar rock and disco beats have been released on Skin Graft and Three One G. Two other groups to be spawned from Arab on Radar’s demise _ Athletic Automaton and Made in Mexico _ didn’t find such quick success and hipster acclaim. This split release by Pittsburgh’s New Addition Media, however, proves that both are just as, if not more challenging than that of their ancestral brethren. While Chinese Stars diluted Arab on Radar’s sound into a more danceable, easily swallowed (albeit not entirely displeasing) formula, these two bands have opted to continue in the way of Arab on Radar's last, and most accomplished album, Yahweh or the Highway.

Guitarist Steve Mattos and drummer Patrick Crump form the entirety of Athletic Automaton, a gym class gone wrong. Calisthenics become repetitive exercises of sonic torture, as the sweaty duo engages in musical drills designed to sap the energy of even the most fit and healthy listener. The angry swarm of Mattos’ guitar tone and the intense battery of Crump’s drumkit assault the ears and wreak havoc on the biorhythms. Captured on disc, the music isn't as forceful, especially with the rather flat production here, and muddied vocals from J. Ryan (Six Finger Satellite). The recording lacks the depth and low end of the duo’s live show, though “Death on an Escalator” and “Sweatpants, No Underwear” aren’t rendered totally limp by the recording.

Made in Mexico, the new outfit of former AoR guitarist Jeff Schneider, is an amalgam of the spaghetti-strung guitar contortions Schneider slung in the past, unsteady rhythms and structure shifts, and a dose of heavy punk aggression filtered through the mix. Driving beats and riffs are easily knocked off-kilter, leading to rickety breakdowns and buildups that may or may not find their way back to the song’s main motif. “Infrared Eyes” is the group’s most twisted creation, while “Wounded Knees” and “International Zombie” are more straightforward and pummeling affairs. As with Athletic Automaton’s half of the disc, Made in Mexico can’t always overcome the shoddy production, which leaves the drums paper thin. But, in another similarity to their friends on this release, the lo-fi aesthetic of the disc does capture a distinct atmosphere within the music, and, production values be damned, there’s some great music to be harvested from this rather unrefined ore.

By Adam Strohm

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