Los Angeles based duo Puro Instinct consisting of sisters Piper and Skylar Kaplan have been missing in action, though not entirely dormant, for several years now. Leaving little to no trace of evidence. Their previous release Headbangers in Ecstasy (Mexican Summer) was met with somewhat critical acclaim, smoking out waves of idolatry towards 4AD bands of the late ‘80s infused with a sugary plastic, immaculate indie pop gloss of the early ‘90s. A once buzz band soon flickered off the radar into oblivion, sweeping whatever vapor and leftover ecstasy under the rug while simultaneously closing the velvet curtain on a much needed recovery. However, recent attempts at making a comeback, without much hype to gloat, have only marred any previous expectations, redirecting trajectory to an entirely remodeled and au courant persona.
The journey begins with a hymn of unification. “Panarchy” aims to paint the perfect picture, or at least a crude interpretation of one. Imagine yourself marooned on a desert island – an oracular Dionysian landscape – digging up the soundtrack to an accelerated, far beyond our years, ancient civilization. Boasting a homewreckers-esque status, particularly with their overzealous shut down the club disposition. Their candor precedes them. In renegade utopian fashion, Puro Instinct pursue the mysticism of discovering paradise, and are determined to crash the end of the world party at Barbie’s broken-dream-house along the way.
“Peccavi” in Latin, is an admission of guilt or sin. Akin to the decadence of Moulin Rouge, but less extravagant, the confession overall maintains a peculiar quality. Delicate but rough around the edges; something you can touch, but would prefer not to break. What should be perceived as lackluster, technically, has been polished over with a well-concocted, toxic finish. The result is contagious, an addiction on par with high fructose that is unapologetically artificial in flavor. The less enticing single “Tell Me” whispers a subtle Chris Isaac Wicked Game castaway vibe. Changing in tone entirely from grayscale to pastel. Igniting an inferno of tropical pop retro junk flexing in synchronicity with the analogue warmth of washed-up-along-the-shore hardware and messages in bottles.
Drifting on a come up somewhere between elevator house and heaven trance “What You See” is a mantra of sorts. Dosing on whatever was given to you. Looking through a water damaged View-Master stoned out of your mind, vexed with splendid visions of fiction and shorthanded illusions. “Picture yourself on a desert island counting sunsets until your love comes back.” Oblique strategies suddenly trickle down to harsh realities. This is the price you pay for living in paradise. Tragically poppin’ off “Scorpio Rising” is when the joyride actually departs. Emulating a refreshing take on a classic getaway motif, stereotyping the past into the present. Shredding off in the distance, cue disappearing act and end with an ellipsis. The first track on the album to successfully incorporate the use of guitar, adding emphasis and an unknown-pleasure-textured layer that paralyzes and permeates, like venom in your bloodstream after the sting.
On “Babylon” you can go ahead and kill the house lights, if you haven’t done so already. Ushering in one of the darker moments on the album. It could be that the equivalent to said fictional city serves as a metaphor for America, or more accurately put, living in Los Angeles. The collapse of a once prosperous civilization, perhaps several, calls to mind a reflection of Siouxsie Sioux circa Cities of Dust. Riffing again off of that cinematic epic, the fuzzy television screen fading in and out of focus.
Blowing you and everyone else’s cover “End of an Era” strikes a chord at being somewhat political. With icing on the cake lyric “let God sort ‘em out” bringing up issues of police brutality, senseless violence, the chaos that is, everything we already know, or I at least hope are paying attention to. The approach is much more aggressive than usual, demanding attention in proximity to the other territory covered on the record, introspective and absorbent. It kind of trips everything up in a beautifully intentional way, crumpling the pages of the story and molding it into an amorphous wad. Letting it stand as a swan song, punctuating perfectly everything leading up to this moment. The rollercoaster ride through paradise is over; Babylon set ablaze and torn asunder.
Taking on the role of a siren, authoring words into death sentences. The female voice has been played like an instrument in more ways than one could imagine, literally, performing an assault on the senses. Drenched in modulation, Kaplan’s vocals have been mined and sampled lavishly. Strategically placed throughout and manipulated beyond recognition to mimic, if not compensate for, the shortcomings of an instruments’ ability to at times, produce effective results in your favor – something only software is capable of doing. Kaplan has the capacity to be prophetic, but chooses to opt out and be nonchalant about it. Martyrdom seems to be a reoccurring theme, where proclamations of “nail my body to the cross” are interrupted casually by post apocalyptic dream sequences. She teeters on the brink of sacred and profane. The lyrics are far from angelic. They are forthright and at times insightful, romantically vulgar, but not morbid.
What I appreciate most about Autodrama is the decisive fearlessness to experiment, crafting resources from scratch and fine-tuning every bit of nuance into a particular niche. Puro Instinct exploit both positive and negative space sonically within each composition, allowing for drama to occur automatically, as the title of the record suggests. Utilizing emptiness to create and elevate momentum. The breaks are calculated with just enough room to breathe, and then come back in unexpectedly like slaps on the wrist. Not forcing any decision to be made, but rather letting the moments and magic happen organically. Tricked into submission, the charm overrides the expectation. What you see isn’t necessarily what you get. (Stephen Proski)