Album Appreciation: 1 by Autotelia

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. 

“It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were.” (Csikszentmihalyi)

Although recorded before the Covid lockdown this release seems to have somehow caught the current zeitgeist just right, the album comprising a series of sonic journeys that happened in relative isolation from the artists’ involved own audial hinterland… an island of sound that sets it apart from what they have achieved in the past. Although those familiar with the work of the duo here would probably say that this was more part of an archipelago.

Autotelia is comprised of The Oscillation’s Demian Castellanos and Tomaga’s Tom Relleen, who decided to get together to see what sort of audio paths they could wander down. As Relleen suggests: “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”.

With the idea of a sonic island in my head while listening to this album reminded me of when I spent some time on the isle of Iona off the West Coast of Mull, itself off the West Coast of Scotland. This small (less than 10km2) outcrop of land provided me with genuine sense of isolation as I walked along it deserted beaches and barren trails… the changeable weather meant that you were never far from a storm… neither from calm and beautiful sunlight, and the evenings could be purely magical… a climate which engineered self-reflection and the amplification of my own thoughts and processes. I guess it taught me to be more autotelic… and this is what I am getting from listening to this album. A sense of freedom within relative confinement… a sense of reflection from the eddys and sonic pools that this music conjures up.

So after another period where my ability to travel has been geographically limited, this time by a virus rather than the sea… I am firstly feeling very open to the sense that Castellanos and Relleen are exploring their own musical collaboration away from the regular hum of life as they both comment:

“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 completelynew 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.”

… and then I am feeling the freedom that this music imparts. A freedom to express what I want through it… an emancipation from those things that I yearn for during this pandemic… a sort of salve against the pain of absence.

A lot of this is because this album falls in that area of liminality between the ambient and the disconnected… a place that brings together atmosphere and isolation… a space that is both synchronic and diachronic… in other words somewhere where one can create one’s own ideas for one’s self… an island where my own thoughts and visualisations work within their own logic and authority.

This then is an album that just feels right… and has come to me at the right time. I find myself listening to its motorik patterns, drones, sonic injunctions and disparate beats with growing familiarity and increasing appreciation… each time creating a diorama that is both engaging and fulfilling.

‘1’ is available now from Rocket Recordings.



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