Return to Earth


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Return to Earth's second outing, 2010's Automata, features all of the bipolar tendencies common to a transient side project whose multi-tasking members can experiment freely with an infinite range of wildly divergent styles, safe in the knowledge that their 401(k) plans depend on another musical day job. Aren't you jealous? You should be, because Automata is the sound of ingenuity run amok, with the resulting chaos and inconsistencies of its musical smorgasbord only contributing to its entertainment value -- no strings attached. That freedom from accountability is a crucial factor behind the creative carte blanche that sees Return to Earth traveling from the Dada-esque start-stops and loud-silent contrasts of the title track (part grindcore, part Krautrock), to the furious industrial metal of "You Will be Replaced" (mixing Ministry's staccato riffing onslaught with Fear Factory's computer-distressed vocal style), to the atmospheric instrumental triptych "1.0," "2.0," and "3.0," to the pure metallic bludgeoning of "The Altercation of Man," to the undisguised melodic rock of "The Replicas." Amid all this, the closest Automata comes to locking into any particular formula is via the focused, infectious electro-rock exhibited by "Night of the Exploding Razors," "The Dots Do Not Connect," and "God at the End of the World" -- all of them singles worthy of Trent Reznor's standards. But still, multi-tasking creativity is undoubtedly where Return to Earth's strengths really shine, so if the group's side project status leaves you reticent to commit, just relax and approach Automata like a heck of a one-night stand -- then worry about the next day's "walk of shame" later.

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