Autotelia, as originally coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, describes a process by which someone has a purpose in, rather than outside of themselves. Those who are autotelic depend less on external rewards for their satisfaction, being driven instead simply by purpose or curiosity. Such was the genesis of a new project put together by The Oscillation’s Demian Castellanos and Tomaga’s Tom Relleen. Started purely as an exploratory aural voyage with no expectations, no boundaries and no context.
Autotelia’s sound as chronicled on I, their debut release for Rocket Recordings, evolved purely of its own volition, as its makers were happy to allow their own chemistry and interplay to take its course. This zen-like simplicity of approach has been more than rewarded, as the impulses and intentions blossomed into meditative extrapolations both sonically rich and spiritually captivating. “This project was started as an opportunity to play more freely, with less of the process, consideration and production we both associated with our main projects” relates Tom. Yet although all the tracks on I follow similar neural pathways to their destination, there’s in fact a ten year gap between the guitar-scorched heat-haze of ‘Thinking Makes It So’ and the extra-terrestrial soundscape of ‘Storm At Tucanae’. The former track was recorded “completely live – just bass and guitar and effects – and lots of booze – in a rehearsal room in Stoke Newington” says Tom. “That’s totally where we are at back then. The other tracks are from sessions in the last two years and obviously we have a load more gear now, so drum machines, mellotron, vibraphone and various synths are where we are now, but the emphasis is still on more textural and less song based ideas, and a shared love of kosmische, drone and ambient.”
Yet although some observers may be able to detect parallels with the blissful drift of Cluster’s ‘II’, the overheated amp stacks of prime Spacemen 3 or the becalmed modernism of Eno in these radiant trance states, the core sound of Autotelia remains in splendid isolation, an unearthly tapestry of echoes and vibrations channelled direct from the id and the ether. “Personally for me I don’t think anything from my personal life or current events were an influence for Autotelia, unlike The Oscillation which is very intertwined with my personal dramas, reality and life” reckons Demian “Autotelia is more been about allowing emotions, feelings and sonic spaces to do their own thing with a sense of freedom, and not wanting to impose myself or my ego on them too much”. “These tracks are pure escapism – zoning out and not worrying about anything” adds Tom. “I think that when playing music for a completely new project it can be really liberating since there is no expectation and no baggage associated with that you might have already released. the slate is blank. Hence Autotelia.”
Opening with the aptly named ‘First Flight’ begins the journey that is I, with a slow, progressive build that instantly ignites attention and demands to be listened to. The use of layering and repetition, drone and ambience allow the listener to delve ever deeper and only surface for air when, and if, they choose too. ‘Red Bloom’ continues, and maybe it’s because of its name, or maybe it’s because of the nature of the sound, but this track wouldn’t be out of place in any space odyssey production. ‘Thinking Makes It So’ offers hazy guitar, saturated in reverb making it almost otherworldly, ethereal and haunting. There are Eastern influences laced throughout, invoking desert imagery which only adds to the mystique. ‘Floating Island of the Gods’ builds in speed subtlety and invokes kraut rock vibes with its use of repetition and phasing before ‘Storm at Tucanae’ leads us gently to the close.
There are a hundred and one comparisons that could be drawn here, but why bother. Autotelia have created something so beautiful that it’s better just to forget where it came from, and to absorb it for what it is.