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I JR Moores , September 2nd, 2020 08:50

Speaking to The Guardian in 2016, Martin Fry of ABC said that David Bowie's Blackstar resembled a special kind of double album. There was the first one we experienced on Friday 8 January and were able to enjoy in blissful ignorance over the weekend: a spectacular rejuvenation on which Bowie sounded more fired-up than he had in decades. The prodigal Duke returns! Then there was the album we heard after learning of Bowie's death a couple of days later which, as Fry put it, "was his tombstone".

Autotelia is the joint project of The Oscillation's Demian Castellanos and Tom Relleen (also of Tomaga). Their debut album, I, was released at the end of July and judging by its title it should have been the first of many. A few days ago it was announced that Relleen had passed away after receiving a cancer diagnosis back in March. Presumably the album was cooked up before then, so perhaps the Blackstar comparison is moot. Even so, the experience of listening to Autotelia's debut has suddenly become a far more upsetting one.

Although the record is a gently unfolding blanket of sound, there is a vibrant effervescence to Autotelia's kosmische sound-shapes. The suite-like instrumentals will wrap themselves around you, inspiring deep-thought relaxation, without boring anybody's pants off. Furthermore, each of the five tracks has its own distinct flavour. There's some deep and dubby bass going on in the second track. This one in particular is crying out to be played over a massive soundsystem, whenever that'll be allowed again. 'Thinking Makes It' uses spidery psychedelic guitar patterns before growing heavier and more ominous towards the end. 'Storm At Tucanae' feels more placid and twinkly. The album was recorded with Castellanos and Relleen aiming to free their playing from any baggage or expectation. While much ambient music of this nature can seem languid and often inessential, Autotelia sounds - and hopefully this doesn't seem crass - more alive than comparable records. That factor makes listening to it now all the more heartbreaking.

According to the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the 'autotelic' personality trait refers to those individuals who perform acts because they find them to be intrinsically rewarding, rather than doing things to achieve specific external goals. Do keep in mind the importance of such soul-nourishing pursuits during your short time on this planet. Some of us will have a much shorter time than others. There is another Tomaga album scheduled for next year. It was mastered during Relleen's final days. That one could be the real kicker.