The Robot Ate Me They Ate Themselves

It’s a fitting title for this otherworldly debut, as much of the record is engaged in the process of slowly devouring itself. Songs frequently stop just as they gain momentum, are reoriented, and then thrown in another direction. Instrumentation is lavish, rife with wheezing, whistles, and elastic synthesiser and guitar textures. The songs themselves are melodic, recognisable as bedroom-rock with experimental leanings: like Jim Guthrie channelling Neutral Milk Hotel, but underwater. What sounds like a string section being strangled collides with chattering typewriter keys; gorgeous subtle accordion takes flight and then melts into frenetic drumming and a power-saw solo. It’s all very deliberate and inspired — the writing itself so strange and lovely that it immediately pulls you under, with frequent references to decay and dying. Much is explained when you discover the album was recorded in the wake of both a difficult break-up, and the death of singer/multi-instrumentalist Ryland Bouchard’s grandmother. The second half of the album is increasingly abstract, and infinitely more interesting — like a film score to a nightmare, but the kind you marvel at because of its beautiful strangeness. The Robot Ate Me is an engaging, frequently puzzling and wholly rewarding listen. Best taken before bedtime, while sleepy, medicated or just bewildered. (Swim Slowly)