Aldous Huxley writes, in his dystopian novel Brave New World, “They have soma, which makes you feel nothing, but auto-pain makes you feel everything. Let’s feel everything and see what happens at the end of it.” Using this as inspiration, Chicago four piece Deeper named their highly anticipated sophomore record after the quote. Though Auto-Pain was constructed before lockdown, it manages to adequately soundtrack the state of the world at this moment.
The record weaves like a stream of consciousness that transforms loop-based textures into a frenzied inner monologue of anxious thoughts and depression. The album’s twelve songs provide an audible catharsis. The album utilizes raw emotional complexity to craft tracks that feel timeless in their own right.
Album opener “Esoteric” begins with a gentle guitar riff that grows into an intoxicating song layered with groovy bass lines, bendy guitar, snappy drums and the strident vocals of lead singer and guitarist Nic Gohl. The sense of urgency created continues to intensify as more textures are added throughout “Run,” and “This Heat.” The rhythm section, mixed with the unwavering guitar in the first three tracks, are unmatched. Although the sound has an upbeat and encouraging facade, the lyrics help keep the listener in check, as Gohl repeats: “You’re crossing a line.”
Gohl’s lyrically bleak disposition pierces the listener on “Lake Song” with a pleading croon that speaks, “I just want you to feel sick / Cause you’re better as you’re lying on the bathroom floor.”The track depicts those struggling with mental illness, the wish to cure their pain and remain by their side in support. A feeling Deeper knows well, as the lyrics morph in the wake of founding member and lead guitarist Michael Clawson’s death, before the project’s completion.
Following the transient interlude “Untitled,” the listener arrives at the album’s climax. Tracks “Spray Paint” “4U” and “VMC” breathe new life into the listener. This climax interacts with a change in the album’s mood and tone, which evolves from anxious and depressed to hopeful. The mixing of mesmeric whirling guitars, experimental synthesizers, and frenetic percussion create a danceable cacophony of sound. The build up of the percussive guitars in the album’s later songs mimic and respond to the sounds of drummer Shiraz Bhatti, whose maturation led to him incorporating sounds from his Native American and Pakistani heritage. His influences are also seen on “Helena’s Flowers” where his “found-sound samples,” taken from a recent trip to Pakistan, layer beautifully with the brutal and menacing textures that carry-on throughout the song.
Rounding out the emotional rollercoaster that Deeper is in full control of is track 11, “The Knife.”. What starts as the signature Deeper sound of jangly guitar and synth, quickly erupts into a release the album has spent its duration teasing. The song itself feels like the purging of negativity and the process of self actualization. Album closer “Warm” provides an auditory handhold.
Deeper finds solace in Auto-Pain, conveying a brutally honest message of the way we treat and handle those struggling emotionally, which made this record so compelling. Auto-Pain is a labor of love, overdriven for the thick-skinned in this fucked-up world.
*A portion of the proceeds from Auto-Pain will be donated to Hope For The Day, an organization that actively works to break the silence surrounding mental health.
Auto-Pain is out now via Fire Talk Records.