PREMIERE: Autosuggest walks us through his debut record, ‘Tame Harm’
It’s a very special week for Sydney’s Alec Mallia AKA AUTOSUGGEST. He’s spent the better part of the last few years writing, experimenting and collating sounds for his debut record, Tame Harm. It’s set to be officially released into the world this Friday, but we’ve got the first taste of the record right here.
Of the record, Mallia said “Written between 2014 and 2018, ‘Tame Harm’ represents for me, the first solid release of Autosuggest as a project. It’s built upon tearing up crutches that I relied on whilst learning to make music, and thriving among the parts I can’t help but love.”
Featuring previous singles ‘Heron’, ‘Graphic’ and ‘Lose Me’, the record spans ten tracks, all filled to the brim with as many different ways of executing distortion on a track as possible. So much so, that during the recording of ‘Here Alive’, he managed to blow up an amplifier.
The record sees him effortlessly move between post-punk experimentalism and electronic synth-wave, but never once sounding dated. Despite its historical reference points, this record was made in 2019 and Autosuggest‘s done an expert job of ensuring you can hear that. Whether it be in the throbbing tension of the intro track ‘Heron’, or the minimal crunchiness of ‘Now Now’, modern practices make for an expansion of previous genres and sounds unlike anything ever made before.
He’s struck the perfect balance between the digital and the analogous. Guitars are ever present in various forms, whether it be in the violent tones of ‘Graphic’ of or the whiplash-heavy bass of ‘Television Beheading’, and synths reign supreme, particularly on tracks like ‘Spoilt’.
To help us dive a little deeper into the mind of Autosuggest and his journey with these tracks, he’s put together a track-by-track walkthrough of the record. Take a read below.
The majority of Tame Harm was recorded in early January 2018. ‘Heron’ was written on Dec 23, saved at exactly 7am in the morning. I’d woken up at 3am, very aware that I had nine songs when I wanted ten on this album, and so sat myself at my desk. I probably made and binned about three demos before finally arriving at that solid synth sound you hear as the vocals come in.
‘Heron’ was written as an attack on the old sound of the project. The echoey noises, and the sound of those synthetic horse hooves are from two things in particular — a sped up and reverb-soaked version of my old track ‘Murmur’ and the galloping sound from the end of that record, ‘Truth Runs’. The whole sound builds right up only to be cut off by a big distorted laugh — and that’s it really, that’s ‘Tame Harm’.
Although I thought I had all the tracks from those initial studio sessions, I ended up cutting one, during the mixing process which is… generally frowned upon if you don’t have any material to take its place. Not to worry, I thought, I’d come up with something.
That something was ‘Graphic’, written between the in-and-outs of driving to Melbourne for The Project’s first interstate show. I didn’t use any of my usual synths, and a lot of it is hack-jobs of just piling on effects of very standard sounds, but I think that looseness served the writing process really well. The idea of just trying to rip a sound out of anything was central to the album, and the lyrics reflect that kind of ramshackle confidence.
Essentially the first song I finished that I felt was a step in a new direction. For a long time I thought it was going to be the absolute lead, but I think it became more of a springboard for the other tracks. There’s something about the cheeky little synth line in the chorus, the rhythm of the drums. Something evaded me here and it’s probably going to haunt me until the next release. It was the longest song to mix, the sound engineer Jesse Williams and I fought over this a fair bit. I don’t know who won in the end.
Lyrically it’s about trying to keep calm and enjoying oneself in the face of… essentially pick a day to open the news. Jack McFarlane (Bass) and Jordan Sexty (Guitar) from the live band are on this clapping.
A combination of my obsession with David Bowie’s track ‘Cracked Actor’ and my love for the textures of Kanye West’s Yeezus. You get that rock and roll swing but with the crushing electronic element. We got so addicted in the recording process of trying to find new ways to get more distortion that we ended up blowing up an amplifier. The vocals across a lot of the songs are even processed through two distinct distortion chains. We can’t let the metalheads have the monopoly on distortion.
Like a lot of the tracks here, it’s delving in and out of confidence and the need to feel wanted, the idea of being present and actually living in the reality of the moment.
A single with no chorus, built upon cascading and crushing synths and guitars, yet I still almost threw it away. I think it just became a track about pushing all the things I loved right on through, revelling in all the distorted and weird glitchy glory. The lyric “I feel it pulling slowly” towards the end is trying to describe that exact feeling of making it. Trying to snatch on to that mental tether and pulling the idea through the needle.
The most ‘future-flung’ track of the bunch, barely any guitar or bass, just a straight blistering rhythm. I think I must have been listening to a hell of a lot of BV at the time. It very much has that intense focus on rhythm and almost spoken word. I couldn’t even tell you what this is about, it was very much a stream of consciousness. I still managed to fit in my favourite drum samples at the end for those big cascading post-punk tom-fills.
The second eldest track of the album, the first half being written in 2015 and the latter actually post the initial studio sessions. It’s the strongest example of the project’s post punk roots, and it’s just beautifully moody and broody.
The title says it all, we live in strange and troubled times, and this was a reaction to seeing a lot of horrific things over the years. Rightfully the darkest track of the bunch. It took months attacking the track to get that second half right, but I love it to bits now, it might be my favourite.
The zipper at the start can be whatever you want it to be.
Lyrically it does what it says on the tin. As far as I’m concerned, this track is literally just a way to frame that massive growl, which is in fact just me making weird noises with my mouth about 5-6 different times. Jackson McCarthy of Lapse is here on guitar as well as Angelo Quezon, who kind of duel it out towards the end of the track. It’s just a colossal train-wreck of sounds. Love it.
Written almost prophetically before an extremely terrible time for myself and a few others. The song wasn’t meant to be about anyone but definitely became about someone. It’s about how physical and emotional intimacy exist on different dimensions, and the interplay between those two.
Kerry Scott-Jackson and Jackson McCarthy of Lapse are on this singing, I couldn’t have asked for more perfect vocals to complement my drawl. Outside of the vocals, there’s only 3 parts. It’s one of my favourites because of how easy and simple it was, everything was just right.
The very first track I wrote as Autosuggest in late 2014. I wrote it within a night and put the demo up the same hour I finished it.
It’s amazing how things change, and I’m so far from where I thought I’d be, and it was interesting to have almost a duet with the past and present. The final chorus, which features Angelo Quezon singing, I amended to the original. “I’m still here”.
Intro by CAITLIN MEDCALF