Reviews

IMRO Artist Development Production Seminar May 26 2011

Artist Development | Production Seminar with Ken Mc Hugh (AKA Autamata)
Date: Saturday 11th June
Time: 11am - 5pm
Venue: IMRO, Copyright House, Pembroke Row, Dublin 2

Ken has been active in the music production business since early 2000. After graduating from Pulse Recording college he set up his own recording studio where his clients included Jon Bon Jovi, Cathy Davey, Mundy, Celine Dion, The Blizzards, Moya Brennan, Juno Falls, Jerry Fish and David Kitt. Ken has also worked with EMI and Warner records developing artists.

He released three critically acclaimed albums under the name "AUTAMATA". This original and innovative music caught the attention of TV/FILM executives around the world and he has worked on adverts, films and TV shows for a broad cross section of clients including Mitsubishi North America, Kaiser Permanente Healthcare USA, Yoplait, Birds Eye, 3 Mobile, Middlesex Bank, Greenflag, C.S.I. Miami, MTV, Setanta Sports, Channel 4 and RTE.

He has also created music for the Golden Globe nominated film Match Point as well as Tara Road, Standing Still, Swing State, Bickford Bchmeckler's Cool Ideas, The Actor's, Parked and Saltwater.

In the past year Ken produced and recorded the gold selling album "Doing Their Thing" for the Dublin Gospel Choir along with hotly tipped indie acts Hoarsebox, Dirty Epics and The Danger is, as well as releasing a new album of his own original compositions under the name WE SAW HEAVEN.

He is currently putting the finishing touches to the fourth Autamata album which will be released later this year.

Aside from all of this production work he has toured extensively with Autamata, runs his own record label, creates his own websites, music videos and album artwork.

Ken is running a DIY artist development week long workshop in various venues around Dublin in July. Check out www.musicacademy360.com for more info.

This IMRO seminar will be a daylong snapshot version of the workshop.

 

RTÉ - Autamata "Colours Of Sound"  April 23 2008

Label: Lefthand
Year: 2008
Duration: 47 minutes

Ireland has never been a fertile hunting ground for electronica lovers. Whereas over the water there have always been a myriad of bands and producers bubbling away, you'd struggle to think of any Irish act that's made any significant impression over the past decade.

'Colours Of Sound', the third album released by Autamata, also known as Ken McHugh, should do its bit to redress that balance. Four years since debut album 'My Sanctuary' and two years after 'Short Stories', 'Colours of Sound' finds Mr McHugh in an up-beat and positive mood.

The band's first two releases were subsequently raided for film soundtracks and TV ads and it wouldn't come as a big surprise if the same was done for this one. Painting soundscapes is what Autamata seem to have a knack for, and tracks like 'Inter-railing', 'Watching the World Go By' and 'A Drive through the Countryside' with their themes of travel could be the perfect accompaniment for long bus journeys.

When it's turned up a notch however, the band truly gets into their swing and get feet tapping. 'What You All About', 'Come Party at my House' and in particular 'Music's All We Need' all benefit from the increase in tempo.

Earlier incarnations of Autamata contained the notable vocals of Cathy Davey. Now a successful artist in her own right, Davey guests on 'Cloud-Seekers', a hectic two minute forty three seconds of electro-pop which despite the catchy verses is let down by the chorus.

Elsewhere on the album, opening track 'Effervescent' does its best to lull the prospective listener into a false sense of security, a wispy instrumental with a decent melody, you get the feeling it could have better served the album appearing at the end.

Strings, provided by the Cora Venus Lunny Violin Orchestra, and McHugh's own talents as a multi-instrumentalist combine well, particularly on the last two songs of the album.

Irrepressively up-beat in nature, 'Colours Of Sound' is a solid album, made all the more commendable for the lonely task of flying the flag of Irish electro-pop.

Padraic Geoghegan

 

Hot Press - "Liberty Bell"

November 30 2005
Autamata
'Liberty Bell'
(N4 Records)

"Given that Christmas seemed to start around the end of August, it’s perhaps no great crime to be talking about Liberty Bell in terms of being one of the great alternative records of the season, even if it is only mid-November.

Even given that anything bearing the stamp of Carol Keogh is destined to be pretty marvellous, this is still one of the most life-affirming, joyous songs to emerge from these shores in recent years.

It is nothing short of the solid gold sound of celebration, not only of Dublin but of Autamata themselves and of all the other bands from the city and beyond who have made this such a memorable year in Irish music. God bless the whole bloody lot of them."

Phil Udell

 

RTÉ - Autamata "Short Stories"  November 3 2005

Lefthand Records - 2005 - 59 minutes

The second album from producer-musician Ken McHugh's Autamata incarnation is a mixed bag in terms of style, but also of quality.

The introspective ballad 'Great For Us' appears alongside the frenzied 'Bring it On', the almost folksy 'Liberty Bell' and the melodious 'Goldilocks'. There's so much genre-jumping here that you almost become dizzy from it.

Openers 'I Spy' and 'Crazy' sound reasonably good, but it's with 'Bring it On' and 'Goldilocks' that you feel the album really comes into its own. The grungy, rock feel gives way to harmonious tinkling sounds nicely and you realise that the album is never going to stick to the same formula from song to song.

Perhaps because of the differing styles, you never get the intimacy here that you do with other albums. It's too disjointed a collection to create any kind of momentum. Some individual tracks stand out, but the lack of cohesion here means we don't engage as well as we could with the album.

With a few highlights in parts, 'Short Stories' unfortunately feels too disparate a collection to really blend well.

Katie Moten

 

Dublinks.com - September 22 2005

"Melodic electronica at the Temple Bar Music Centre on Thursday, the 22nd of September.

Ken McHugh was born in County Mayo and grew up playing Irish traditional music. At school he discovered The Pixies and Nirvana and started playing in rock bands. It was only when he made the move to Dublin that he discovered sampling, dance music and breakbeats.

Inspired by the invention of Orbital, the sonic adventures of Bjork and Stina Nordenstam and the melodic perfection of Brian Wilson, he began creating his own music. Working in various Dublin studios, McHugh started assembling equipment for his own studio, Area 51. He continued to refine his talents by producing other artists including David Kitt's album, The Big Romance.

My Sanctuary was recorded over a year long period and was originally concieved as an instrumental album. But McHugh decided to take these compositions and transform them into songs. McHugh brought in Carol Keogh of Tychonaut and Cathy Davey to provide vocals for the tracks. Keogh played a particularly important role singing on half a dozen tracks and contributing lyrics.

My Sanctuary features the intoxicating electro-pop beat of "Jellyman", the floating trip-hop of "Lets Normalise" and the industrial clanging of "Little Green Men". The album proved to be to complex and varied for the major labels, so McHugh put the album out on his own label, Left Hand Records in 2003. My Sanctuary was greeted by loud critical acclaim and the album was picked up by the London-based independent, RGR.

Autamata release their second album, Short Stories on the 16th of September on N4. Featuring the vocals of Carol Keogh and Sarah Verdon, Short Stories is a quantum shift in band's production and undeniable pop sensibility. The album features an array of new songs and styles including the electroclash of "Bring It On", the sashay-pop of "Goldilocks" and the warehouse party feel of "Summer's Son"."

 

Róisín Dubh - Autamata profile

"In an age where most bands find one sound and stick to it, Autamata - founded by musician and producer Ken McHugh, and featuring the unmistakeable voices of songwriter-vocalists Carol Keogh and Sarah Verdon - have always stood out. Short Stories, their second album, a sprawling, utterly disparate, breathtakingly ambitious and above all hugely fun exploration of near-limitless musical and emotional terrain, confirms that the band are impossible to shoehorn into anything as boring as one musical genre.

If the album has a theme, it's one of love: love lost and love gained. If you like, it's the musical equivalent of a miniature film festival: 13 short films each with its own distinctive characters and its own palpable mood, with all the limitless variation and surprises that implies.

Just as a music lover's vinyl collection, CD rack or iPod will reflect its owner's desire to jump from hip hop to dream-pop to soundclashey disco-rock to folktronica to everything else besides, Ken, Carol and Sarah are modern music lovers whose tastes and greediness for playful experimentation across all musical genres know no bounds. Hence - just like its creators' tastes - Short Stories genre-jumps, too.

Thus, the modernist Peaches-style electroclash aggression of 'Bring It On' segues seamlessly into its complete opposite: the hallucinatory sashay-pop of 'Goldilocks', with its shining, crystalline textures and dreamlike mood; which then itself dissolves into the exquisitely bittersweet remembrance of things past that is 'Skimming Stones'. Elsewhere, depending on your mood, you can groove to squelchy post-Aaliyah slouch-pop about lovers' insecurity ('The Tap'); you can slam-dance to a post-Destiny's Child anthem about how an Independent Woman's attitude adjustment led her to happiness (the filthified whip-crack that is 'Dirtybird'); you can sway to the doomy early-'80s warehouse party last-dance that is 'Summer's Son'; you can laze to the splashy banjo-and-accordion-led sea shanty/cowboy song that is 'Out To Sea'; or you can squint in the beachside setting sun that is 'A Clear View'. And that's only the half of it.

Those familiar with Autamata's debut album, My Sanctuary, will hear a quantum shift in Autamata's approach in the aggressive, in-your-face production and undeniable pop sensibility in evidence on Short Stories.

“After writing My Sanctuary,” says Ken, “I took Autamata a step
further, and started playing live. It really influenced the way we went about writing this album.” Sure enough, as a result of Autamata's transformation over the last two years from a chiefly studio-based project into one of the nation's finest live bands - merging astonishing musicianship, cracking modernist electro flourishes and two of the country's most distinctive singers - Short Stories bristles with immediacy. Everything from its smashing live drum sound to its fearless head-first embracing of the whole audio spectrum, from cacophony and electro-noise through to intimacy, acoustica and silence, reflects a period spent honing what Autamata do to perfection in a live setting.

Autamata's debut album My Sanctuary exceeded any ambitions even Ken himself might have had for it, bringing with it two landmark music videos from Irish animation legends D.A.D.D.Y. and winning placement in films and adverts on both sides of the Atlantic. Above all, however, its success inspired Ken to play around with his own ideas about music.

“Short Stories, for me, is a compilation made from a two-year period of writing, where Carol, Sarah and myself wrote 20 songs and 10 instrumentals, and then chose our favourites and recorded them. Whereas My Sanctuary was put together by making instrumental tunes first, which we then formed into songs, Short Stories was mainly created the opposite way, writing songs first and playing around with ideas about their sound and feel afterward.

“I like making Autamata albums as musical journeys,” Ken says, “where each track has its own identity -as opposed to a lot of other artists, who seem to find one sound and stick to it. I know this is unconventional,” he says, “but I think things have changed. It's not like it was, where people used to be into only one kind of music, and be part of a particular 'scene'.

We're living in a time now where people are really passionate and inquisitive about finding out about all sorts of stuff, and like lots of different styles of music. I know that's what the three of us are like, anyway.”

For people who truly love music, Short Stories has more than a few good yarns to tell."

"In an age where most bands find one sound and stick to it, Autamata - founded by musician and producer Ken McHugh, and featuring the unmistakeable voices of songwriter-vocalists Carol Keogh and Sarah Verdon - have always stood out. Short Stories, their second album, a sprawling, utterly disparate, breathtakingly ambitious and above all hugely fun exploration of near-limitless musical and emotional terrain, confirms that the band are impossible to shoehorn into anything as boring as one musical genre.

If the album has a theme, it's one of love: love lost and love gained. If you like, it's the musical equivalent of a miniature film festival: 13 short films each with its own distinctive characters and its own palpable mood, with all the limitless variation and surprises that implies.

Just as a music lover's vinyl collection, CD rack or iPod will reflect its owner's desire to jump from hip hop to dream-pop to soundclashey disco-rock to folktronica to everything else besides, Ken, Carol and Sarah are modern music lovers whose tastes and greediness for playful experimentation across all musical genres know no bounds. Hence - just like its creators' tastes - Short Stories genre-jumps, too.

Thus, the modernist Peaches-style electroclash aggression of 'Bring It On' segues seamlessly into its complete opposite: the hallucinatory sashay-pop of 'Goldilocks', with its shining, crystalline textures and dreamlike mood; which then itself dissolves into the exquisitely bittersweet remembrance of things past that is 'Skimming Stones'. Elsewhere, depending on your mood, you can groove to squelchy post-Aaliyah slouch-pop about lovers' insecurity ('The Tap'); you can slam-dance to a post-Destiny's Child anthem about how an Independent Woman's attitude adjustment led her to happiness (the filthified whip-crack that is 'Dirtybird'); you can sway to the doomy early-'80s warehouse party last-dance that is 'Summer's Son'; you can laze to the splashy banjo-and-accordion-led sea shanty/cowboy song that is 'Out To Sea'; or you can squint in the beachside setting sun that is 'A Clear View'. And that's only the half of it.

Those familiar with Autamata's debut album, My Sanctuary, will hear a quantum shift in Autamata's approach in the aggressive, in-your-face production and undeniable pop sensibility in evidence on Short Stories.

“After writing My Sanctuary,” says Ken, “I took Autamata a step further, and started playing live. It really influenced the way we went about writing this album.” Sure enough, as a result of Autamata's transformation over the last two years from a chiefly studio-based project into one of the nation's finest live bands - merging astonishing musicianship, cracking modernist electro flourishes and two of the country's most distinctive singers - Short Stories bristles with immediacy. Everything from its smashing live drum sound to its fearless head-first embracing of the whole audio spectrum, from cacophony and electro-noise through to intimacy, acoustica and silence, reflects a period spent honing what Autamata do to perfection in a live setting.

Autamata's debut album My Sanctuary exceeded any ambitions even Ken himself might have had for it, bringing with it two landmark music videos from Irish animation legends D.A.D.D.Y. and winning placement in films and adverts on both sides of the Atlantic. Above all, however, its success inspired Ken to play around with his own ideas about music.

“Short Stories, for me, is a compilation made from a two-year period of writing, where Carol, Sarah and myself wrote 20 songs and 10 instrumentals, and then chose our favourites and recorded them. Whereas My Sanctuary was put together by making instrumental tunes first, which we then formed into songs, Short Stories was mainly created the opposite way, writing songs first and playing around with ideas about their sound and feel afterward.

“I like making Autamata albums as musical journeys,” Ken says, “where each track has its own identity -as opposed to a lot of other artists, who seem to find one sound and stick to it. I know this is unconventional,” he says, “but I think things have changed. It's not like it was, where people used to be into only one kind of music, and be part of a particular 'scene'.

We're living in a time now where people are really passionate and inquisitive about finding out about all sorts of stuff, and like lots of different styles of music. I know that's what the three of us are like, anyway.”

For people who truly love music, Short Stories has more than a few good yarns to tell."

 

RTÉ - Other Voices 3, May 15 2005

"Ken McHugh, the man behind Autamata, was born in Mayo and grew up playing trad music. School, however, introduced him to the louder sounds of The Pixies and Nirvana and stints in various bands followed. His move to Dublin then opened up even wider vistas, with sampling, dance music and the works of Bjork, Stina Nordenstam and Brian Wilson all becoming familiar haunts.

Working in various Dublin studios, McHugh stockpiled the knowledge, saved up the cash and set up his own studio, Area 51. He produced David Kitt's acclaimed full-length debut, 'The Big Romance', and has also worked with a host of other acts.

2004 saw the full international release of Autamata's debut 'My Sanctuary', a genre-jumping album which had warmed up Irish audiences since 2002 and featured the vocal talents of Cathy Davey and Carol Keogh of Tychonaut. Two tracks from 'My Sanctuary', 'Fragments' and 'Jive County', have since been used on numerous television ads and, in the case of the latter, in the US film 'Standing Still'. 2005 will see McHugh begin work on his sophomore album."

 

cluas.com - "My Sanctuary"

"In what is currently a highly regimented and commercially driven music biz “My Sanctuary”, a collection by Autamata, represents a quaint rarity-it’s a labour of love, music made for fun rather than figures, with melodies aimed at the mind rather than the moolah.

Autamata is the brainchild of Ken McHugh, a highly rated and decorated Dublin studio boffin. The album’s publicity blurb cites Brian Wilson and Orbital as influences-sure enough, the skittish “Jive County” sounds like Wilson put through a techno blender while “fragments”, the album’s opener, is a happy, almost jazzy take on Orbital’s “The Box”. McHugh occasionally over-reaches - “Little green men” is Autechre for slow learners, while the laughably portentous “to be a robot”, a spoken piece, falls firmly into the “seemed like a good idea at the time” bag.

McHugh recruits Carol Keogh and Cathy Davey for vocal duties. They’re both adept in completely different ways which blurs the album’s focus, but not terminally so. On “Out of this” and “Postscript” Keogh is tough and tender, rather like Róisín Murphy before she became a mannequin. Cathy Davey on the other hand, could be a star someday - “Jellyman” is an attempt at playfulness and not up to much but Davey makes it sound wilfully and wickedly carnal. Every note she sings has the scent of sin.

“My Sanctuary” manages to be chaotically cluttered, eclectic, at once shrilly discordant and saccharine sweet. So yes, you’ll like it."

Anthony Morrissey

 

Contact Music - Autamata

"Autamata is the creation of Dublin-based artist/producer Ken McHugh who this week releases limited edition EP ‘Tales From My Sanctuary’, a taster of forthcoming album ‘My Sanctuary’ released February 04.

Even Ken McHugh - aka Autamata - doesn't quite know how to describe the breathtaking eclecticism of his debut album, My Sanctuary. "A lot of people ask me and I still haven't worked out the answer," he admits. "It's influenced by just about everything I've ever heard and you can't even begin to pigeon-hole it. The only answer I have is that I hope you can put it on and by the end you feel you've been taken somewhere."

My Sanctuary is a record that as soon as you think you know where it is headed, then it immediately takes a no-hand-signals left-turn somewhere else entirely. It's a record that via its beguiling mix of real instruments and electronic programming takes you to an entire gazetteer of contrasting map references: Country/City. Happy/Sad. Pastoral/Urban. Acoustic/Electronic. Noisy/Ethereal.

From the limpid beauty of ‘Out Of This’ to the irresistible electro-pop beats of ‘Jellyman’, Autamata introduces the Bjork-influenced experimentalism of ‘Registered User’ and the joyful Lambchop-meets-Lemon Jelly vibe of ‘Jive County’. Add to this the floating trip-hop of ‘Let's Normalise’ and change direction once more with the clanging industrial beats of ‘Little Green Men’ and its extraordinary orchestral coda.

My Sanctuary was recorded over a year long period, while he was also working on other projects. Originally, he had conceived it as a purely instrumental album. "I had some very chilled rhythms and beats and noises. But then I realised I also wanted something you could whistle in the shower and so I moved to a more song-based approach."

In addition to Ken himself, vocalists on the album include Carol Keogh of The Tycho Brahe and Cathy Davey, now signed to Parlophone as a solo artist. Keogh played a particularly important role, singing on half a dozen tracks and contributing lyrics.

Autamata will be bringing their live show to the UK to tie in with a second single in January and the release of My Sanctuary in February.

Music is his sanctuary. Let it be yours too."

 

The Lobby - Autamata profile

"Autamata release their début album, My Sanctuary (Lefthand/RMG) on 20th September 2002. Autamata is the brainchild of Dublin-based artist/producer Ken McHugh. My Sanctuary was recorded over a year-long period whilst the producer was working on various other musical projects. Ken describes the album as, "A manifold of sounds that merge to create an aural journey of mixed experiences and emotions".

Having reached a point where the marriage of live instrumentation and electronic programming came naturally and fluently, Ken began to incorporate all these influences into Autamata and set about making his debut album, at the same time establishing his own record label, Lefthand Records. One year on and My Sanctuary is born.

"The album was built up from layers of electronic music, structured into songs featuring guest vocalists, Carol Keogh, Cathy Davey and my wee nephew Michael who got to 'be a robot' for a while", Ken explains. "I even decided to sing on a couple of the numbers myself."

All clichés aside, Ken really does make the music for himself as a soundtrack to his own life and experiences. Realising that he was making the equivalent of an album's worth of music a year, he decided to share this music with the rest of the world, each album documenting his creative vision of that time regardless of musical trends and styles.

Although his background is in traditional Irish/ folk music, playing around Ireland as a youngster with his family's band, Ken quickly discovered Nirvana and Pixies and started "banging it out in a few garage guitar bands". A post-school stint studying sound-engineering introduced the budding technophile to the world of synthesizers and samplers, when he began taking in everything from hip-hop to ambient, electronica to pop and dance. Work in a number of recording studios raised money for Ken to buy his own equipment and that was the beginning of the road that brings us to his 'sanctuary'.

His current influences range from Bjork/Stina Nordenstam through to Orbital, Aphex twin and the Future Sound of London. The producers he most admires include Brian Wilson, Nelle Hooper, Timbaland and the Neptunes.

The advent of modern technology has allowed Ken McHugh the autonomy to create music in the studio, and he is now intent on taking that technology into the live arena, rehearsing with a 3 piece band and giddying up ready to start gigging early next year, with a full-on visual presentation.

In his Dublin studio, Area 51, in recent years Ken has worked with a host of local and international acts: "David Kitt"'s 'The Big Romance', Creative Controle, Naimee Coleman, Moya Brennan ,various dance, pop, R'n'B projects, and a few movie soundtracks. He is currently working on Conor McPhearson's new feature length film "The Actors" starring Michael Caine."

 

RTÉ - Autamata "My Sanctuary" September 19 2002

Lefthand/ RMG - 2002 - 54 minutes

Autamata is the nom-de-plume of one Ken McHugh, producer, multi-instrumentalist and the man behind his own label, Lefthand Records. 'My Sanctuary' is the result of a year's work drawing on a diverse range of influences. McHugh wears his production credentials on his sleeve and (mostly) opts for a less-is-more feel. He juggles quiet and loud, and inverts the notion of instrumentation by using the usually skeletal click tracks as primary beats.

Where sparse electronica risks falling into the clinical category, it is usually rescued by the undulating (and lovely) vocals of Carol Keogh ('Out of This') or Cathy Davey (Let's Normalise'). However 'Registered User' takes a wrong turn and ends up as a dull journey through bleepy robotics. Autamata try to cover a lot of musical terrain and the result is rather uneven.

'Little Green Man' begins as an aimless synthesiser plod before turning into an updated John Ford film score. 'Jive County' - one of the best tracks - is an airy mix of acoustic and electronic sounds. This up and down-ness is most noticeable in the constant interjection of sounds or samples at oddly-timed intervals. Autamata runs towards the finish line that Fourtet has already crossed, but the latter in a more engaging way.

McHugh produced David Kitt's 'Big Romance' and understandably, there is much overlap in production sounds and sequences. While Kitt's younger brother singing on 'Another Love Song' was something of a first, McHugh's nephew sounds like an unsuspecting vehicle for pretension on 'To Be A Robot'.

This is a very worthy, if somewhat patchy effort that has some beautiful moments. Autamata's real potential is apparent, but it's a little thinly spread on 'My Sanctuary'.

Sinéad Gleeson

 

Hot Press "Short Stories" September 13 2005

No difficult second album for Ken McHugh’s Autamata. Short Stories builds on the blueprint of the debut LP, My Sanctuary, and takes this loose collective into new and interesting territory.

As usual, the Mayo man is joined by some seriously talented sidekicks for his musical adventures. Cathy Davey may have flown the Autamata coup to pursue her own solo career, but Tycho Brahe front woman Carol Keogh is back on singing and co-writing duties, featuring on no fewer than eight of the 13 songs here, and her voice proves itself once again to be a supremely effective, powerful and unique instrument.

Newcomer Sarah Verdon contributes vocals and lyrics to four tracks, while Ken steps out from behind the keyboard/computer to deliver one himself, the sentimental ‘Great For Us’. Halite main man Graham Hopkins drums on almost half of the album, while the Modern Gospel Ensemble contribute some fine tonsil-work to the excellent ‘Liberty Bell’, more of which later.

The music veers from the disco pomp of ‘Bring It On’ to the heavy, fuzzy bass rumble of ‘Dirty Bird’, the atmospheric ‘Skimming Stones’ to the ridiculously catchy electro-pop va-va-voom of ‘The Tap’. Despite or perhaps because of the chameleonic nature of the tunes, the arrangements throughout are never short of intriguing, featuring bells, whistles, kazoos, dulcimers, wurlitzers, glockenspiels, harmoniums and whatever you’re having yourself squire: indeed, the instrumental gypsy folk of ‘Out To Sea’ features a sound that resembles nothing more (or less) than a croaking bullfrog.

The aforementioned ‘Liberty Bell’ (surely a single in waiting) is one of the warmest songs written about our capital city in some time: it also helps that it’s as infectious as genital warts, but far more pleasant. ‘Crazy’ sounds like it could almost be a hit for Britney Spears, although Sarah Verdon’s chorus comes across more Ozzy Osbourne. Speaking of choruses, this album is brimming over with some of the most addictive I’ve heard in some time, from the masterful, orchestral ‘Goldilocks’ to the dreamy ‘Summer’s Son’, which features both Keogh and Verdon on vocal duties.

Short Stories is a sumptuously produced collection of songs that veer from the subtle to the imperious, yet never meander near the middle of the road. This is not an immediate album – but live with them for a while and these Short Stories will repay your faith manifold.

John Walshe, 8/10

 

General Press

Logo Magazine "My Sanctuary"  April 1 2004

"Ken McHugh rose to prominence as the producer who steered David Kitt through 'The Big Romance', and now he's applying the same attention to detail and harnessing of ideas to himself. A lack of ideas is one thing that McHugh can never be accused of, across eleven tracks he has at least thirty of them, whether it's the notion of Japanes ambient New Order ('Fragments'), the disaster at a classical recital recalled by 'Little Green Men' or sticking a folk finger in your ear to a neo-bhangra beat (recent single 'Jellyman'). In looking for a label deal McHugh was told he had too many ideas and had to concentrate on one style. He told them to piss off: our gain, their loss."

 

Arena "My Sanctuary"  April 1 2004

Autamata, the work of Ken McHugh who grew up in County Mayo playing trad Irish jigs, before sucking on the teat of Bjork, Nirvana, The Pixies, Orbital and Brian Wilson. My Sanctuary is wildly sprawling but contains some greatness within, especially Little Green Men, and instrumental piece that combines an Enya-esque quality (stay with it) with rousing strings, doinky noises and break beats. An album you could find solace in whatever the stinking depths or euphoric peaks of your mood...

 

Music Week "My Sanctuary"  March 1 2004

This rather stunning set, following the excellent EP, 'Tales from My Sanctuary', is a kind of edgier Zero 7. Excellent.

 

The Month - The Sunday Times "My Sanctuary"  Feb 29 2004

One musician's dizzying eclecticism is another's too-much-of-a-good-thing self-indulgence, leading some fans to applaud musical polyglotism in a few bands, while decrying it in most. Autamata, aka Dublin-based Ken McHugh, tests this distinction to the utmost with a debut that touches base with pop, electro, trip-hop, whimsical acoustica and full-blown orchestral interludes. 6 of its 11 tracks are graced by the voice of Carol Keogh, including the winning Lemonjelly-esque Jive County. But the effect is momentarily brilliant rather than wholly wonderful. The Kate Bush-indebted Out Of This and Registered User are thrilling.

 

The Ticket - Irish Times "My Sanctuary"  September 12 2002

And still the resurgent's continue to make left-field music for discerning popular consumption and airplay on fringe radio programmes. The person behind this latest Dublin-based electronica pop-collective is producer/artist Ken McHugh; others involved include vocalists Cathy Davey and The Tycho Brahe's Carol Keogh, each of whom provide requisite balmy sibilants while McHugh's manifold sounds act as a backdrop to sooth the temples. While it seems primarily experimental music, skilfully packaged to be swallowed in bite size chunks, there's a thoroughly acceptable school of thought behind it. McHugh's autonomous blend of 'real' instruments with digitised sound is warm and melodic, while the album's title is a hint to it's internal logic. Altogether, a treat. ***

 

Press Review's of Autamata release "My Sanctuary"

"One of the best Irish electronic albums of recent years."
Irish Independent

"All together a real treat."
Irish Times

"The sort of record the traditionalists among us always hoped sequencers and bedroom friendly digital recording would create."
Uncut Magazine

"This stunning set of tracks is a kind of edgier ZERO 7, excellent."
Musicweek

"An album you could find solace in whatever the stinking depths or euphoric peaks of your mood."
Arena Magazine

"Out of This and Registered User are thrilling."
Sunday Times (The Month)

"In looking for a label deal McHugh was told he had too many ideas and had to concentrate on one style. He told them to piss off. Our gain, their loss."
Logo Magazine

"Every once in a while you hear an album like this, so refreshing and inspired that you want to listen to it every moment you’re awake and maybe even in your sleep. This album is the soundtrack of our future."
Blazinvibes.com Magazine

"It’s loved up Sunday afternoons, it’s an LSD trip on a CD. All blotchy lights and pleasing sounds."
Rockfeedback.com Magazine

"Somethings are diminished by explanation and mere words cannot do justice to the pictures he paints in your mind. Wherever this came from, it’s a strange and magical place."
Logo Magazine

"Autamata could well turn out to be 2004’s Royksopp."
student123.com

"A human sounding cycle of engaging and beautiful sounds... the journey proceeds with a natural and awestruck comfort. It’s adult accomplished pop at its best. I love it like a friend, let the music be your friend too."
Whisperin and Hollerin

"It’s catchy and will have you humming along all day long... electronica that has emotion, something that lots of electronic music lacks... an album that will never gather dust in your CD rack."
Utopia

 

Whisperin & Hollerin - "My Sanctuary" - May 2004

"Ken McHugh is a recording engineer and musician from Dublin. This delicious collection of pieces is testimony to those two sides, and no less than you'd expect from such a culturally rich city.

"My Sanctuary", his first full album of solo work, has eleven tracks blending electronic structures, natural instruments and real voices. The result is a human-sounding cycle of engaging and beautiful sounds. The range is beyond industry limits of what you’re normally allowed to take to market in one cover. But it spends enough time with each piece to build, display and complete a scene before moving gently onto a new neighbourhood. McHugh's folk roots show through in the way that every piece makes an integrated musical statement of song-like narrative. The astonishment of new sounds and twists is always deftly telegraphed, so the journey proceeds with a natural and awestruck comfort. Much like a walk through Dublin itself.

Cathy Davey and Carol Keogh sing their own lyrics on seven of the tracks and young Michael O'Rourke renders "To Be a Robot" in finely poignant style with Eimar O'Grady adding telling cello lines. The spoken lines of computer error and hard drive failure are the saddest and most mysterious words you'll hear all year.

Ken sings the oddball languor of single "Jive County" which I love like a friend. The website has a nutty video, but the song lives perfectly well on its own account. It has an alt-country feel, with spikes of contemporary sound splinters that tickle the jaded palette like the best chilli. Curling up like chocolate behind it is "Out of This", with Carol Keogh singing warm and insistent reassurance against a background of Japanese counterpoint vocals and very fine backing track. It’s adult accomplished pop at its best.

"Hide and Seek" is an impressive soundscape that takes its longer time frame with South East Asian nuances and a firm pulse. Carol Keogh's voice threads it together and glitchy stutters punctuate harp sounds.

"Jellyman" has Cathy Davey singing virtuoso words to a tune that could be a 70's punk throwback, with real big bass and drums and a Space Invaders keyboard riff. Lovely.

Let the music be your friend, too."

Sam Saunders, 8/10

 

XFM Online - "Jellyman" - February 23 2004

Alicia Kish: "Dublin-based artist and producer Ken McHugh’s second single as Autamata is prime organic electro-pop, if there is such a thing. Warm production is made all the more heartfelt by the vocals of Cathy Davey, who has a Bjork-esque tinge to her voice, and makes ‘Jellyman’ almost float. Slightly left-field, it bodes well for the imminent release of Autamata’s album ‘My Sanctuary’."

 

Oxegen - Autamata live at The Village, Dublin

"After a great twelve months or so, Autamata played The Village the other night. trigger-cut was there automaton-like throughout...

When I first got my hands on Autamata's debut My Sanctuary, I couldn't get over how much it reminded me of Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine. I know how crazy that sounds. Musically the albums are a million miles apart, but in terms of the production, both have an unusually crisp, clean feel that allows the listener to detect the multi-layered structure beneath each song. Perhaps this is why the album has impressed so many critics. It's almost like being able to see the wirework in a good puppet-show, and realising just how nifty the puppeteer really is.

The puppeteer in this instance is Ken McHugh, the man who produced David Kitt's The Big Romance in 2001, and a guy for whom sentences beginning "Autamata is the brainchild of... " must be getting very tiresome. Still, it's his own fault for coming up with such a remarkable album.

Anyway, having missed them at Witnness this summer, I was eager to see whether Autamata could really pull of such densely layered songs in a live setting. In The Village last night, the answer was a resounding yes.

Although sound difficulties hampered the show throughout - with Carol Keogh's mic getting lost amid the instrumentation a fair bit - the band nonetheless managed to recreate the impact of the album onstage. In fact, certain songs even sounded a whole better live than they do on the record. Certainly, the minor pop symphony that is Jellyman was much more striking than it is on My Sanctuary, seeming much more frenetic and carefree.

Other highlights included opener I Spy, (a new song with a slick pop chorus and a pounding rhythm), the meandering Hide And Seek, and Fragments (starting off all Orbital and FSOL before the bassline goes proto-New Order).

Carol Keogh's voice hardly faltered all evening. The former Plague Monkey, now enjoying fresh success with The Tycho Brahe, was at her brilliant best on Onward and Out Of This. Surely at this stage she would even kick Liz Fraser's arse in a "Sounds Like Liz Fraser" contest. Standing in for Cathy Davey was Sarah Verdin, who similarly turned in an excellent performance, particularly on the insanely addictive Jellyman.

With images of aliens and snippets from Lost In Space flickering on the screen behind the band all night, it was no surprise that Little Green Men closed the initial set. One of my least favourite tracks on the album, it admittedly has a lot more oomph live. Having departed briefly, the band returned for a short encore which they closed with an inspired cover of The Cure's A Forest.

Having just been picked up British independent label RG, who will release My Sanctuary internationally in 2004, Autamata look set for bigger and better things. Judging on tonight's energetic performance, they'll be ready for it all."

 

Hot Press - Oxegen 2004 - June 30 2004

"Autamata – Some bands are really not designed to venture out of the studio, let alone emerge into the blinding light of a festival but Autamata seem better equipped than most to cope with the stresses of such a transition, putting together a full band to make the most of Ken McHugh’s vision.

Look out for: guest spots from Carol Keogh and Cathy Davey."

 

Hot Press - Autamata at Oxegen 2004

Franztastic! Kim Porcelli catches all the action

"We can still hear the drone of Goldie Lookin’ Chain coming from the main stage as we tramp across the field… and that’s when the first notes of Carol Keogh’s voice become audible, strong and buoyant and impossibly lovely, on the air, even this far away from the Green Room tent. (I should declare an interest right now: it will not be news to some Hot Press readers that I play cello and drums in Keogh’s other band, Tychonaut, so absolutely make of this report what you will.) Autamata’s songs are brainy, complicated, and fearsomely groovy. They’re also quite disparate, given Ken McHugh’s shifting co-songwriter arrangement: they range from stylish, hip-swinging post-hop (think Massive Attack with a sex life) on the one hand, as we are reminded by Sarah Verdon’s utterly mighty delivery today of ‘Jellyman’, to pristine, shiny, textured electro-pop with huge giddy-making wit and lightness of heart on the other. What also certainly doesn’t hurt is that in Carol Keogh, one of their two female vocalists, they have one of the most utterly arresting singers in Irish music. The precision and gutsiness and ease with which she launches her voice into the air during, say, ‘Out Of This’ makes you think of a violin virtuoso or a master conductor: it’s the sort of voice you find yourself following around in your head from moment to moment, and she makes really complicated and beautiful shifts and phrases look and sound easy. That said, ‘Jive County’, delivered by Ken McHugh himself, was a set highlight: we forgot what an absolutely lovely and tuneful electronic quirk-pop classic it is. With his own warm, boyish tones leading the way, it had a delightful plasticky freshness, like a brand-new toy at Christmas."

Kim Porcelli

 

Hot Press - "Out Of This" - October 22 2004

Autamata
Out Of This
(Lefthand Records)
22 Oct 2004

"There are many who subscribe to the school of thought that Carol Keogh could sing anything and make it sound like a gift from the gods. That’s probably true so the effect when she’s given a song as gorgeous as this is totally spellbinding. Ken McHugh certainly knows how to build an elegant wall of sound but this is very much Keogh’s record, one that easily stands alongside her finest moments with Tychonaut."

Phil Udell

 

Hot Press - "Jellyman" - April 29 2004

Autamata
Jellyman
(RG Records)
29 Apr 2004

"Already a favourite at Autamata live shows, ‘Jellyman’ further showcases the collaborative talents of maverick producer Ken McHugh and the gonna-be-huge Cathy Davey. The song itself is hugely catchy, but what really sets it apart from the indie pack is its generous sprinkling of glitchy loops and layers, due in part to the vast amount of boy’s toys at the fingertips of McHugh. Without ever coming across as over-produced, the song with its numerous layers and facades tends to change once your back is turned. How producers do it I’ll never know, but it’s damn clever all the same."

Tanya Sweeney

 

Hot Press - "Jive County" - February 28 2003

Autamata
Jive County
(Lefthand Records)
28 Feb 2003

Culled from Ken McHugh’s nifty debut album, My Sanctuary, this naggingly catchy curio is a rather wonderful slice of skewed electro-acoustic wizardry, like early Neil Young filtered through (Autamata collaborator) David Kitt’s box of sonic tricks. A great advertisement for what’s currently goin’ down in the Dublin underground.

Paul Nolan

 

Hot Press - Witnness 2003 - July 14 2003

"Twinkly-sounding rumblings from the Onstage, as well as the need for shelter from the sun, lure a sizable crowd in to Autamata. Having already earned his stripes as a production wizard, Ken McHugh proves himself a deft songwriter. While his songs display Pixies and David Kitt influences, his songstresses of choice, Cathy Davey and Carol Keogh, are whetting the crowd's appetite for their imminent world domination. Talk about calamine lotion for the soul..."

Tanya Sweeney

 

Hot Press - Autamata - March 3 2003

With the truly spellbinding vocals of The Tycho Brahe’s Carol Keogh captivating the audience from the off, the suprisingly formal guitar/bass/drums/keyboards line-up masterfully wove a supremely atmospheric, hypnotic wall of sound.

"Sometimes, it’s nice to have your expectations confounded. Only passingly familiar with the Autamata oeuvre beforehand, I arrived at TBMC with a fixed view of what was in store – specifically another studio-oriented outfit offering a worthy but ultimately dull attempt at translating their record into a live setting – and instead bore witness to one of the best gigs I’ve seen in quite some time.

Ken McHugh has transposed his debut album, My Sanctuary, from disc to stage with flair and imagination. With the truly spellbinding vocals of The Tycho Brahe’s Carol Keogh captivating the audience from the off, the surprisingly formal guitar/bass/drums/keyboards line-up masterfully wove a supremely atmospheric, hypnotic wall of sound. The background visuals, meanwhile, were perfectly in sync with the music’s spooky brilliance – slow tracks through space, flowers coming into bloom, reversed footage of collapsing buildings.

Not that this was by any means an exclusively, low-key, downtempo affair – the band kick out the jams with the rendition of the first My Sanctuary single, ‘Jive County’, which metamorphoses from its earlier lo-fi, electro incarnation into something of a bass- heavy, funk opus. Taking the rudiments of the post-rock template and adding the visceral, emotional wallop of Aphex Twin or Mogwai, Autamata have even at this early stage rocketed to the forefront of the Dublin independent scene. Mightily impressive.

Paul Nolan

 

Hot Press - Live In Dublin - June 3 2004

"There’s no question of Dublin producer Ken McHugh’s commitment to, and mastery of, his craft. Autamata’s first release, My Sanctuary, was an accomplished collection of electronica that, for better or for worse, yielded comparisons to Moby when it was released in 2002. What has followed is an EP of remixes and more recently, a full-blown re-release and re-mix of …Sanctuary.

As well, McHugh has recruited animation maestros D.A.D.D.Y (for the excellent ‘Jelly Man’ and ‘Jive County’ videos), he’s bagged a handful of no doubt lucrative film and ad campaign soundtracking deals, and topped it off with an impressive online presence. Here’s an artist that has carefully cultivated, in every sense of the word, a brainchild. But as they say, all work and no play makes Autamata a dull boy and methinks this brainchild needs time to frolic, particularly after more than two years in the studio.

Carved and polished down to every bleep, the live set was eclectic, flawless but thoroughly underwhelming. Even with the full live band – bass, drums, guitar, keys, synths – and two very talented female vocalists Sarah Verdon (covering for absentee Cathy Davey) and Carol Keogh (of Tycho Brahe fame), the gig was decidedly lacking in the entertainment stakes. The visual backdrop was a nice accompaniment, synchonised perfectly and with each track title introduced on screen – but ultimately it made a poor substitute for stage presence. Graham Hopkins’ dynamic drumming was as good as it got in that department, and even the playfulness of tunes like ‘Jelly Man’ did little to animate band members or inspire connection with the crowd.

There were some moments of greatness – particularly with McHugh rocking out on guitar – but ultimately the tunes sounded overworked and even dated. The final track, ‘Decibel’, was the only new one, but we can only hope that some of that ad money goes into creating some more."

Danielle Brigham

 

Hot Press - "My Sanctuary" - October 21 2004

Autamata
My Sanctuary
(Lefthand/RMG)
21 Oct 2002

You mightn’t be familiar with the name Ken McHugh, but chances are you own and love at least one record he has produced, such as Creative Controle’s calling card debut ‘Bloodrush’ or David Kitt’s exquisite modern Irish masterpiece The Big Romance.

After quickly garnering a sterling reputation for recording other people’s work, Ken is now having a go at recording his own. The backbone of My Sanctuary is an electronic soundscape that McHugh and company use to project their pop vision. Especially effective are two tracks featuring vocalist Cathy Davey entitled ‘Let’s Normalise’ and ‘Jellyman’, well crafted slices of sunny electro pop from the Cocteau Twins and Saint Etienne school of songwriting. Carol Keogh of The Tycho Brahe sings on a grand total of five tracks. While some of these drifted by me, ‘Out Of This’ and ‘Postscript’ and the closing salvo ‘Hide and Seek’ border on brilliance.

My most rewarding moments were found in the instrumentals ‘Little Green Men’ and ‘Fragments’. which leads me to think that maybe My Sanctuary buckles slightly under the weight of its own ambition. Nevertheless, it’s a promising if somewhat patchy debut.

Eamon Sweeney,  6/10