# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Autobahn - The Moral Crossing

  by Adrian Janes

published: 19 / 11 / 2017

Autobahn - The Moral Crossing
Label: Tough Love Records
Format: CD


Fine second album from Leeds post-punk band Autobahn which challenges and excites

Having debuted in 2014 with ‘Dissemble’, ‘The Moral Crossing’ represents a year’s work for Leeds-based Autobahn, from the building of their own studio to the album’s completion, the result of which is an immense work in every sense. It’s full of the kind of ambition and willingness to forgo caution that most bands don’t demonstrate any more. ‘Prologue’ opens proceedings with a ringing guitar figure, joined soon by robust drums and whirring synth in the kind of purposeful prelude that sets up an excited anticipation of what is to come. Over the succeeding tracks what this proves to be is music that is complex and emotional yet often very physical too. What immediately follows ‘Prologue’, namely ‘Obituary’ and ‘Future’, suggest some of the main currents feeding into Autobahn. Singer Craig Johnson evokes several voices, but always very Northern ones, on ‘Obituary’ switching between a sort of Mark E. Smith declamation, and a repeated cry in the chorus of “Gut feeling” in the impassioned tones of Ian Curtis – it’s little wonder that renowned Factory hand Martin Hannett is an acknowledged production influence, just as the music and curt song titles have been influenced by Joy Division (both their punkier beginning and their later sonorous sophistication) and New Order. The latter are recalled in the dreamy, indistinct vocal and spare guitar notes of ‘Future’, although with its spiky keyboard riff it’s early Human League or Cabaret Voltaire who equally come to mind, especially when the drums drop out at the end to open the way for a conclusion of juddering synth. Title tracks inevitably attract particular attention, and the shards of guitar and Liam Hilton’s cataclysmic drum pattern ensure this for ‘The Moral Crossing’ itself. If it’s a song about being on the brink of decisions and potential consequences, the anguished “I cannot lose you/I cannot change” crystallises how these involve the heart as much as the head. Strings add to the multi-layered sound, an atmosphere dense with emotional intensity, the air cleared at the end by a piercing violin. But if this represents Autobahn at their best, other songs come close but for what is arguably over-elaboration. So ‘Torment’ interestingly counterpoises a French female singer against Johnson’s baritone, but the complex drumming here is simply too obtrusive, and comes to feel a feat more physical than musical. And the ominous mood created by the initial slow guitar and synth drone on ‘Low/High’ is temporarily spoiled by over-fussy percussion, although largely retrieved by the shift to another rhythm and the subtle addition of gospel singers, before rising to an effective bout of group frenzy at the end. ‘Execution/Rise’ shifts gear to a more industrial feel, a harnessed power embodied by ragged raw guitar and a woozy electronic drone, as Johnson’s voice hammers home the dread implicit in the title. ‘Creation’ is another peak, the combination of guitars portentous yet beautiful, as he recites what seems to be a cycle of the contradictory stuff of life, with occasional religious vocabulary (“Creation…Redemption…Suffering”) echoed by a ghostly gospel singer and Johnson’s powerfully sung affirmation, “I want to be there for you/I want to rise on through”. Control might be a watchword for this record, as well as its sometimes conscious abandonment. It’s exemplified by ‘Fallen’, from the delicate guitar motif and tender strings early on to its launch into a driven snare and tom tom passage, reaching an intense peak before circling back to the guitar and violin once more. A stately synth and penetrating guitar introduce ‘Vessel’, over a classic Ronettes/Jesus and Mary Chain-style beat. Even when it speeds up, there is still an ambiguous, disturbing quality to the challenge: “I wanted to die/You wanted to live/Now I’m telling you”, the dissonant strings and guitar that bring both song and album to a close suggestive of how no real conclusion has been reached to the painful questions and feelings that brought them into being. This is a grown-up album, but also one which is unashamed to admit the ‘adolescent’ turmoil that the years might mask yet which still lurks inside. In facing up to this, Autobahn convey the same sort of courage as Joy Division once did, and drive forward to an uncertain future.

Track Listing:-
1 Prologue
2 Obituary
3 Future
4 The Moral Crossing
5 Torment
6 Low/High
7 Execution/Rise
8 Creation
9 Fallen
10 Vessel

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