You can forgive a band who set out to create something even just a little bit different and get it horrendously wrong, but it’s tough to have sympathy for a band who shy away from the challenge altogether. Such was the case with AutoKratz on their first album, Animal, which, apart from a passable opening track, consisted of a series of bland electronic pastiches – dance music that conversely made the listener want to sit and wait it out. That didn’t stop the hype building around the duo, though, thanks in no small part to the fact that the album was released through in-vogue French label Kitsuné Music. The confusing positivity surrounding the LP suggesting, perhaps, that style overcomes substance once a record company has received the hipster seal of approval.
This time around, however, Kitsuné has stepped aside, with AutoKratz releasing the follow-up on their own label, Bad Life. But has the sense of responsibility that surely comes with this step made them re-evaluate their direction? Has it inspired them to inject a much-needed shot of creativity into their work? Not a hope. If anything, AutoKratz descend even further into mediocrity on Self Help For Beginners. Once again, their best tunes are loaded towards the front of the album, starting with the lead single, ‘Opposite Of Love’. It’s far from outstanding, helped in no small part by the terribly contrived lyrics, but does possess a catchy synth melody – enough to earn it a place on club playlists, at least. It’s a similar story with ‘Becoming The Wraith’, which has Peter Hook on hand to deliver an overtly New Order-esque bassline. Beyond that, however, the quality dips dramatically. Tracks like ‘The Seventh Seal’ and ‘R.I.S.E.’ are typical of the selection on offer; underwhelmingly vapid, derivative tunes which show up a disappointing, but not totally unexpected, scarcity of guile on the part of their creators.
Where AutoKratz do excel is as producers – a quality evident not only in their own work, but also in their remixes for other artists. Unfortunately, this only serves to exacerbate their deficiencies on the other side of the control room desk. Ultimately it may mean that, having failed to address the shortcomings of their debut, AutoKratz will be fated to be filed under ‘Also Rans’ in the annals of music history. That’s assuming, of course, that someone out there will actually remember them at all.