When Mildlife’s debut album, Phase, was released in 2018 it didn’t so much explode onto the scene as ooze. Their mellifluous mix of jazz, krautrock and, perhaps more pertinently, demon grooves, was the word of mouth sensation of that year among open-minded DJs and diggers searching for the perfect beat.
Their emergence was backed up by European tours that demonstrated a riotously loose-limbed approach to performance that was every bit as thrilling as Phase’s tantalising promise. What was more impressive was how lightly they wore influences that took in Can, Patrick Adams and Jan Hammer Group, while primarily sounding precisely like Mildlife.
With Automatic, the band have made a step-change from their debut. It’s more disciplined, directional and arguably more danceable. As on Phase, they are unafraid to let a track luxuriate in length without ever succumbing to self-indulgence. The arrangements, tightly structured thanks to Tom Shanahan (bass) and Jim Rindfleish’s fatback drumming, permit space for the others to add spice to the stew, topped off with Kevin McDowell’s ethereal vocals as Mildlife effortlessly glide between live performance and studio songwriting.
The centrepiece of Automatic is the title track where the band sound like Kraftwerk and Herbie Hancock on quarantined lockdown in Bob Moog’s Trumansburg workshop. It’s both a departure and quintessentially Mildlife.