Release Date: Jun 24, 2016
Record label: Manifesto Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Indie Pop, Dream Pop, Chillwave
Hazy electro-pop had longer legs than might have been expected when the style drifted into listeners' ears in the late 2000s, so much so that the five-year gap between Puro Instinct's debut Headbangers in Ecstasy and its follow-up barely impacted the band's relevance. As the sound's popularity grew, so did its interpretations, and Autodrama shows that Piper and Skylar Kaplan's music kept up with the times: The duo's second album hovers somewhere between the murky aesthetic of their former Gloriette labelmate Nite Jewel and Grimes' hi-def approach. Given the half-decade between this album and Headbangers, it's not surprising that the Kaplans sound more accomplished (indeed, Skylar graduated from Los Angeles County High School while they were making Autodrama), but the ways they express this maturity are still notable.
For all of the allure that Puro Instinct's debut Headbangers in Ecstasy hinted at, it was an album that felt strangely indistinct. The problem wasn't the low budget production so much as it was the atmosphere working against itself. Once you peeled away all of the dense humid layers, there wasn't anything all that intriguing or even memorable lurking beneath the fog.
Shortly after the release of their hotly anticipated debut Headbangers in Ecstasy, Puro Instinct unlocked the highest level of achievement for a Los Angeles buzz band in 2011: Haunted Graffiti played the 16th birthday party of guitarist/vocalist Skylar Kaplan at Wombleton Records in Highland Park. The duo have barely released any music since, and even in the past few months, there are stark reminders of the distance between “Los Angeles indie rock in 2011” and the current day: the imminent demolition of the Smell, lackluster records from now-veteran peers Nite Jewel and fellow sister act Bleached, an eerie lack of news on Ariel Pink’s latest antics. Moreover, Headbangers in Ecstasy's then-fashionable ambition to find the hazy overlap between 4AD and MTV in the ’80s is pretty much de rigueur at this point.
Let it be known that Puro Instinct started their career at a young age, working with Big Boys of Lo-Fi like Ariel Pink and R. Stevie Moore, and have now returned with a new, second full-length album that sheds some of the baggage associated with their beginnings. That is a basic, generalizing arc. It will do.
LA sisters Piper Durabo and Skylar Cielo made, in 2011’s Headbangers in Ecstasy, the bloggiest of all blog band albums. Their second takes its template – hazy dreampop, synth haze, slightly gothic guitar – and explores a darker Hollywood delirium. On Peccavi and Tell Me there are hints of Madonna’s early pep, but dreamy and dissipated, with Durabo intoning about “wishing fiction into fact” and urging you to “forget about tomorrow”.
The early story on the Kaplan sisters, Piper and Skylar, focused primarily on their youth with occasional mention of their spacious synth pop. As teenage siblings, Puro Instinct made modest waves with 2011's Headbangers in Ecstasy (with help from Ariel Pink). Years later, without the crutch of inexperience, the duo's mission to replace vapid pop structures with something substantive comes up short—no matter how impressive their vision sounds.
It’s been four years since Puro Instinct’s debut Headbangers In Ecstasy first wafted past our ears. LA sisters, Piper and Skylar Kaplan, were two, young kindred spirits (Skylar was only 15 at the time) running free in Hollywood and making shoegaze-indebted mermaid rock with their achingly cool musician pal Ariel Pink. But while Skylar's wavery guitar lines and Piper's smudged vocals were inspired by all the right bands – The Smiths, Felt, early REM - Headbangers…lacked real hooks, drifting indistinctly in a pearlesque fog, a pleasant sound, but a forgettable one.
Puro Instinct have spent the run-up to second album ‘Autodrama’ aligning themselves with pop. Last month, they released a breathy cover of Madonna’s 1994 slow jam ‘Inside Of Me’ and in a recent interview with the Love Is Pop blog, singer Piper Kaplan fantasised about touring with Katy Perry. For Piper and her younger sister Skylar – who both grew up on weed and punk and who inhabit Hollywood’s trashy freak scene alongside friend, collaborator and provocateur Ariel Pink – it’s a significant shift.The sisters’ 2011 debut ‘Headbangers In Ecstasy’ was disorientating, with Skylar’s guitar lines – derived from record labels Creation and 4AD’s 1980s heyday – swimming in hazy oddness.
When Puro Instinct bubbled up with its curiously addictive debut Headbangers In Ecstasy in 2011, it salvaged a throwback sound that the mass movement of ’80s worship had yet to rediscover: thick, tropic-steamy dream pop, coasting along trance-like guitar lines and a shimmering drum machine, with cool, breezy atmospherics taking the edge off. It was a style that didn’t necessarily generate hits in its time, but that thirty- and fortysomethings might recall from being a kid wandering a department store or watching a late-night TV drama. Piper and Skylar Kaplan had nailed that distinct bygone vibe (that, at ages 22 and 15, the sisters never knew)—and made it catchy to boot.