Wendy Eisenberg - Auto Cassette
Drawing the connections between Wendy Eisenberg’s releases feels like undertaking a wide-ranging investigation. Albums of wildly inventive guitar, tempo-shifting avant rock and curiously leftfield pop fit together as offerings of Eisenberg’s curious mind. On Auto, their most innovative and inner-reaching album yet, Eisenberg explores emotional, subjective truth, and how it interacts with an objectivity no person alone can grasp. Inspired by the solo work of Mark Hollis (Talk Talk) and David Sylvian’s Blemish, with playing skills that have already seen them climbing Best Guitarist lists and an unvarnished vocal immediacy, Wendy Eisenberg has created an album of subtle display that resonates with maximal impact.
Auto has multiple meanings. First, automobile: “A lot of these songs were written about and mentally take place when I’m in the car on my way to gigs,“ says Eisenberg. Immediate melodies came to them on these trips, to which they’d later add complex guitar parts. And Automata: “I make myself into a machine, which is why everything that’s played is precise.” Finally, they frame their work in the literary technique of auto fiction, “the semi-fictionalized presentation of the self in a narrative form of growth,” as Eisenberg sees it.
The album served as a means toward working through emotional conflicts from adolescent trauma and PTSD, and dissects the dissolution and conflict that led towards the breakup of their former band. With much of it written while its events played out, Auto faces the grief of losing what one thinks is their future while experiencing a dramatic reshaping of their past; it delves openly into the limited nature of one person’s narrative.
Written on the last day Wendy spend in their childhood home, opener “I Don’t Want To” manifests the wounds of losing innocence (“I don’t want to / you can’t make me / it’s only natural you’d try.”) Of “Centreville,” a direct address to the person who assaulted them, Eisenberg explains: “The song literally forces me to alienate my body from my singing self. The complexity of the guitar part is exercise enough for me to have to almost ignore my body… singing a bitonal melody above it is a presentation of the mind-body split.”
After making a few efforts to record Auto, Eisenberg ultimately chose to collaborate with childhood friend Nick Zanca, who contributes electronic elements and production. Mirroring the personal and organic offered by Eisenberg, synthetic sounds form a kind of boundary or context for everything. They “sound like commentary on songs that were written from an organic or subjective perspective,” says Eisenberg. Their place on the album is integral for Eisenberg’s goal “to outweigh the subjectivity of normal singer-songwriter guitar songs with the objectivity of electronic sound.”
The album’s center point is “Futures,” the only direct expression of anger on Auto. Lost post-Birthing Hips, Eisenberg explores their desire for self-fulfillment when stuck in repetitive cycles. The song breaks into a full discordant metal attack over the lines “Another weekend, oh / another contract, oh / another basement show / I didn’t notice that I didn’t notice… that my enemies are finally real.” When stuck in repetition and habit, rage is often the most honest emotional response, an acknowledgement Eisenberg builds into the flesh of the song.
Now, they see liberation from guilt as a double-edged reward: “it’s also maybe a sign I’m not really existing in the world as much as I once did.” On closer “Hurt People,” Eisenberg attempts a few steps towards acceptance and equanimity. “When I win I win a lot / And when I lose I lose alone / But now I don’t hurt people quite as much,” they sing. Auto encapsulates the fullness of its creator’s experience. In all of its intention and precision, we emerge on the other side with a very tactile feeling of loss and understanding.