Uneasy Flowers . Autistic Daughters
2008. cd . dl . lp
"Uneasy Flowers" is the second album by Autistic Daughters, the intercontinental trio of Dean Roberts (guitar, vocals), Martin Brandlmayr (percussion, computer) and Werner Dafeldecker (guitar, bass). It is also the fourth in a series of records in which Roberts, having begun in more abstract territory in New Zealand's mid-1990s 'free noise' ferment, has embraced song, lyric and voice as vessels for topographic and psychoanalytic tracings of the impacts of territory and nomadism on the subject.
This is reflected by the shape-shifting nature of the outfit: while Autistic Daughters, whose name comes from a lyric from their first record "Jealousy And Diamond" (staubgold 56 lp), are resolutely a trio, they also work in cinematic format, with ancillary players – in this instance, Chris Abrahams of The Necks, Martin Siewert and Valerio Tricoli – as part of both cast and crew, foley artists behind the trio's complex, worm-turning arrangements.
With "Uneasy Flowers", Roberts traces the internal and external workings of one protagonist: or, rather, a protagonist who 'contains multitudes', a figure that dissolves the unified self. Rather, this character, Rehana, embodies multiplicity and fragmentation in order to both a) address loss and b) aim toward transfiguration, transcendence. There are traces in the lyrics – traces of addiction and desire, myth and transformation - that are obliquely reflected in the music’s structure, its uneasy tension between the pop song (the 'moment') and experiment (the 'process').
The Autistic Daughters is the trio of New Zealander Dean Roberts and the Viennese Martin Brandlmayr (Radian, Trapist) and Werner Dafeldecker (Polwechsel).
Dean Roberts plays guitar, vocals, harmonica, harmonium and percussion, Martin Brandlmayr plays drums, vibraphone and electronics and Werner Dafeldecker plays electric bass and contra bass. Guest musicians were Valerio Tricoli (Loops, Handclaps, Campanelli, B-Vocals) and Anthony Guerra (Guitar, Palermo Hand-Clappers Union).
Dean Roberts has spent the last half-decade searching for the most appropriate settings for his words. 2000’s And the Black Moths Play the Grand Cinema, recorded in New York with Tim Barnes, saw dissembled fragments of text strewn across a livid magnesium plate of cracked textures. Roberts’ own internalisation of Brian Eno’s “Cindy Tells Me” suggested another avenue: the performer as translator, as conduit for the accumulated detritus of a song’s past, the hidden alternate readings of each song’s history brought to life.
With 2003’s Be Mine Tonight, Roberts introduced characters: now nameless, there almost faceless, characters whose sole purpose was to act, and be acted upon, while navigating alien cities - their mapping of the “real world” continuously disrupted by their own psychological profile, with each song watched, perhaps, from the windows of the building sketched on the album’s cover. (Inanimate buildings filled with/by “images” of people - not necessarily the people themselves.) Here Roberts discovered a new dynamic for his music: the crescendos of intensity in his 1990s free noise group Thela, once disrupted and cauterised via electronic processing on All Cracked Medias and the Grand Cinema, now dissolved and distant. This, of course, made his music far more dramatic, each new distance between human voice and recording device suggesting an improbably infinite terrain.
Terrain multiplies, people populate; on Jealousy and Diamond, the players in Roberts’ dioramas fall together, their stories interweave and they meet in a multitude of urban spaces. These songs pass through unnamed streets (the ambivalence has henceforth shifted from the characters that act to the byways via which these characters reach places that are acted within), and the characters’ actions are observed from open doors, windowsills, phone booths, in taxis (communication and/in transit). These people now have names, histories, and quotidian purpose, meaning Roberts’ songs are inhabited more than before.
So therefore, the Autistic Daughters, the group Roberts helms alongside Werner Dafeldecker and Martin Brandlmayr, with Valerio Tricoli as engineer, co-producer, and part of the touring unit. Now that Roberts’ stories are more intricate, his songs require more interplay - characters multiply, songs are thus populated. Brandlmayr and Dafeldecker bring a cumulative history in improvised and composed music, a keen ear for arrangement, and a knack for leaving spaces in songs the better to let uncertainty peek through, to show that the interactions and occurrences in Roberts’ lyrics are far from seamless.