When Canadian producer Jake Fairley released his second album as Fairmont back in 2007, James Holden's trance-indebted Border Community seemed the perfect home for his wide-eyed take on expansive electronica. Coloured in Memory was indeed a colorful venture into psychedelic electronica. Singles such as "I Need Medicine" and "Flight of the Albatross" both suggested escapism and voyage. On Automaton, his most recent long-player, for Toronto's My Favorite Robot, the mood is starker, more austere, especially compared to the label's current offerings from The Mansisters, Tiger Stripes, or Jonny Cruz.
On new tracks like "Weird Friends," "Alkaline" and "Broken Glass," Fairley's trance-ish take on leftfield dance music is still pretty much in synch with what former label-mates Margot or Wesley Matsell have released on Border Community. That said, it seems the goal here is also to produce pop songs with a classical edge, à la early '90s Depeche Mode. Take "Creatures of Night," a song which, from its pristine synthetic arrangements to its very title, can't help but channel the synth pop greats. It doesn't always work this well, though: other tracks, such as "Fast" and "Last Dance," both have a sluggish pulse that never really takes off.
With Automaton it seems Fairley decided to take a trip down memory lane, right up to his formative years, during which Violator and Songs of Faith and Devotion seem to have became key reference points. On album album highlight "Waiting," a contemplative, almost gothic tone makes for a beguiling listen that does justice to Fairley's heroes; on "Old Ways," he even marries these impulses with his former, more trippy Holden-esque inclinations. His inclusion in the My Favorite Robot family is a welcome addition to a label that is becoming more and more multi-faceted and adventurous.