Review Summary: What a long and strange trip it's been.
Ataxia is, or was, a project consisting of John Frusciante, Josh Klinghoffer, and Joe Lally. The band recorded a group of songs that were separated into two albums; Automatic Writing
and Automatic Writing II
. The writing process of these songs was highly improvisational, letting creativity reign over preparations. The atmosphere of this album is trancing. The music is very experimental, Progressive in nature, but it's coated with a decorative Psychedelic ambience.
Automatic Writing opens with "Dust"
. Joe Lally starts us off with a repetitive bassline that carries us along, but surely, John Fusciante then completely takes over with some intensive guitar arrangements that are drenched in gloomy effects. "Dust"
has us descending deep into an aggressive, yet restrained, progression of musical improvisation. Another
, on the other hand, displays a more delicate nature. The music is much more direct, consisting of a hypnotic bassline accompanied by a simple drumbeat as guitar parts flow in and out. "Another"
is very contrasting from the other tracks of the album because it has a much more emotional agenda, though this emotionality isn't driven by its lyrics but more from its instrumental simplicity. As the song progresses we find ourselves entering a more psychedelic environment with numerous vocal and synthesizer effects. But as the delicate interlude of "Another"
reaches its climax, we then approach the album's highlight, "The Sides"
John Frusciante's performance in "The Sides"
is phenomenal. He provides lead vocals, as well as guitar, and he excels in both. The guitar sound especially, is incendiary. The energy of "The Sides"
is very restrained, containing a hypnotic quality, but as it progresses it reveals a more fiery side. In its climax, we find ourselves arriving to a more passionate explosion of aggression, the guitar solos completely take over and just take us away to an ethereal haven. "Dust"
and "The Sides"
share similar aesthetics as they represent the more Rock-oriented side of Automatic Writing, because from here, it only gets stranger.
takes Psychedelia and Progressive Rock, and turns them inside-out. Almost Immediately, we are bombarded with an intense barrage of Psychedelic effects, taking the listener into a whole new platform of cosmic chaos. It has a slow pace, but that's because this song isn't about rocking out. The music takes the listener through a voyage, it's a descension into a trancing realm of hypnotic ambience. It's both a disorienting and bizarre musical experience. And finally, after an odyssey through realms of abstract rock, and exploring the limits of Psychedelia, we arrive to "Montreal"
. This piece is the perfect conclusion to Automatic Writing as it's an amalgamation of every venture we have heard throughout the album. It feels lethargic, but that's because the music is orchestrated to reflect the dreary words of Joe Lally. This song is like a paradox; it's driven by a mellow baseline and easy drumbeat, but it's guitar sound is disruptive to the delicate sound of the rhythmic instruments as it goes from aggressive to gentle as it pleases, like it refuses to assimilate. But from there we again regress to that abstract realm of ambient psychedelic noise that we've come to familiarize ourselves with in this album. It's a deranged composition, but it's an amazing listening experience. Clocking in at 45 minutes and only containing 5 tracks, this album is as Progressive as it gets. To quote John Frusciante himself; "...If you don't care about song structure, and you want powerful music with strange guitar-playing and songs that are really long, this record is the one."