Montreal singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Krief is taking a big stride with his fourth solo album Automanic, a work that's truly epic, by every definition. Following a devastating string of deaths in his life, and the end of a romance, Krief dealt with emotional trauma the way musicians do: by pouring all the heartbreak and grief and despair and fear into writing. His creative drive came with a dark underside of self- destruction, a phase he's grateful to have emerged from relatively unscathed – stronger, even, but forever changed.
All of this is reflected in the 20 songs that make up Automanic Red and Automanic Blue, an unconventional double album. The two records, according to Krief, are "autonomous in their flow and not meant to be listened to in one sitting." And yet, he continues, "releasing one without the other simply wouldn't make any sense – the plot truly exists within the invisible line that bonds them."
Krief, who has spent much of the past decade writing, touring and recording with Montreal's original orchestral rock-noir band, the Dears, likens the distinctly different vibes of the two records as Thursday night and Sunday morning: Automanic Red is Thursday night, the reckless, kick-off to the weekend; songs like "All Is Lost," "Darkometro" and "Mississippi" have a bold sound and brash lyrics fuelled by anger, anguish and ego. Conversely, Automanic Blue is Sunday morning – "Deo Gratias", "The Mayan" and "Yearning" are some of its moments of sober reflection, grappling with reality, recognizing mortality.
What really ties Automanic together is Krief's songwriting – lyrics that are at once earnest and abstract, personal poetry with universal reach – and a sound unbound by genre but encompassing myriad shades of contemporary pop and rock, from dreamy shoegazing soundscapes to the kind of arena rock balladry that elicits goosebumps and lighters held aloft. To achieve these anthemic highs and introspective lows, Krief enlisted...himself. He played all the guitars, drums, percussion, piano and keyboards, producing the record between Studio Mixart in Montreal and Studio Bottega, located on an alpaca farm in Kelowna, B.C., with post- production happening in New York City and Toronto, where Automanic was mastered by Phil Demetro (Kevin Drew, Hey Rosetta).
That said, Krief didn't make Automanic entirely on his own. Engineer David Schiffman (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Nine inch Nails) sat in on the Montreal sessions, singers Maia Davies and Sam Roberts provided backing vocals, Kelowna's Uptown Hornz brought the brass, Kate Maloney played violin, Justin Wright played cello and Krief's longtime collaborator Roberto Piccioni played various instruments and assisted in the making of the album. Documenting a period of shared grief and internal crisis in a song or a record (or two records) isn't unique, but Automanic isn't a mere document – it's an opus work, made by a musician who was pushed to the brink, and propelled to a creative peak.