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Class D

Main Category: Electronica
Also applicable: Avantgarde
Starting Period: From Grunge To The Present Day
Also active in: --------




Disclaimer: this page is not written from the point of view of an Autechre fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Autechre fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.

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It's kinda funny that electronica has always been the "music of tomorrow". When bands like The USA and The Silver Apples were toying with the first cooky proto-synthesizers in the late Sixties, it was the music of tomorrow. Then tomorrow came with all them German dudes like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, and it still was the music of tomorrow. Then Vangelis took over and sort of made electronica big in soundtracks, but it still was the music of tomorrow. Then along came Aphex Twin and the like and started dabbling with techno and the like and it still was the music of tomorrow. And now the torch has pretty much been passed over to Autechre and guess what? It still is the music of tomorrow.

Not that there ain't a pretty big audience for electronica, of course. And I don't mean the "applicative electronica" - the use of electronic sounds in pop music, which has been a common thing since the early Seventies. I mean experimental electronica, of course, when the synth is used as a goal in itself and the artist channels its very essence and squeezes out every single drop of its abilities rather than just uses it to replicate things that were earlier done with non-electronic instruments. Well, even for experimental electronica, and Autechre are at the vanguard of it right now, there's a pretty big audience. But it's still a "cult" audience, and for all of its daringness and innovation, the real time for this kind of stuff has not yet come. Will it ever come? Well, once we discover life on Mars, probably.

This all goes to say - don't crucify me when I tell you Autechre is not my personal cup of tea. Whether I "get" Autechre or not is a different matter; with music this unconventional, unpredictable and, frankly speaking, "unqualifiable according to any rules", I'm not sure if anybody actually "gets" them, including the two boys themselves. Whose names, by the way, happen to be Sean Booth and Rob Brown, who came together through some mutual acquaintance in the early Nineties and haven't spent a day apart - metaphorically speaking, of course - ever since. When they're asked a question about how they usually work, their stereotypical answer can be condensed in something like "it's all in the layers, man".

Indeed, a basic Autechre track, despite all the variety in textures employed, usually follows the same set of principles, which is very simple. There's a basic rhythmic pattern, ranging from relatively simple to fairly complex - sometimes it can, in fact, cease to be rhythmic at all and gloat all over the poor listener with its irreverent dissonance. Then there's a basic melody, which usually arrives a bit later into the, er, "song", and usually ranges from relatively simple to absolutely trivially child-like in its irreverent minimalism. And then, finally, there are all kinds of bleeps, beeps, chinks, chunks, plinks, plonks, kabooms, pachooks, and tsching-tschings, which they "weave" into this basic texture - arriving even later and never really being as powerful as to obscure the basic rhythm/melody, because, after all, this ain't no space rock a la Hawkwind. Sometimes these plinks and kabooms can actually fall together so neatly they seem to form another minimalistic counter-melody, which has led to the legend that the music of Autechre is, in fact, almost unbearably complex under the surface. Well, sure it is. If you take one three-chord melody, it's simple, but if you take ten of them, it's complex.

In many circles you'll hear Autechre called the great innovators of our time, but this can hardly be the truth - and supposedly, mostly comes from people who aren't willing to take a few steps back in time to broaden the perspective (I mean, it's pretty much like all those people telling you Red Hot Chili Peppers invented funk or Radiohead invented serious pop music). Autechre are building upon a huge, huge foundation, and quite a lot of their work is extremely derivative of predecessors ranging from Kraftwerk to Aphex Twin. They are, however, openly experimental and ambitious, and at the same time - when they're not openly fooling around - accessible enough to pander to the "intelligent dance music" crowds. In short, they got all the right ingredients. They're not exactly the Beatles of Electronica, but they might be the uh, the uh... uh... well... say the Led Zep of Electronica? Yeah, that's a nice, if not particularly sense-making, epithet.

Despite the formula I've just described, Autechre have obviously been evolving over the years. They stepped into the open with a somewhat "normal" electronic sound on their first album; skipped much closer to pure-ambient territory on the second one; and since the third one, have been mostly working in what I ignorantly call the "computer boogie" genre, that is, making very impersonal, very detached, very cold-sounding music that really beats Kraftwerk at their own job - where Kraftwerk, for the most part, still sounded like people imitating robots, Autechre at their "best" do indeed sound like robots, or, rather, like sonically recoded microchips and motherboards. It goes without saying, of course, that when you're making this kind of music, there's a thin red line between "true artistic expression" and "stupid pointless bleeping", and I seriously doubt there are two people in this world for which this line passes over the exact same places (unless, of course, you just take it all or leave it all).

In fact, nothing is easier than mercilessly trashing Autechre music. A person who says "Tri Repetae is pathetic crap that a five-year-old could come up with" won't ever be convinced by anybody that this is, indeed, not the case - and in terms of debate and argumentation, most of the evidence will end up being on the negative guy's side. But is it interesting to trash Autechre? Nuh-uh. In my own view, it is much more interesting to perceive the workmanship aspect of these guys, to try and see which of their albums pack more thought and care and which ones would be more like irrelevant toss-offs. Another approach, which I won't be taking regularly, though, is to see this as a game, because it is a game. It's a game of two kids toying with their brand new toys and seeing how many cooky sounds they can come up with. No wonder Autechre are the number one fetish for every snotty little kid who shuts himself in his bedroom with a Casio. After all, SOUND is MAGIC. Isn't it?

And I'll end this up with my regular electronica disclaimer: no musical genre is more subjective than electronica (apart from maybe industrial), so don't blame me if you feel exactly the opposite about what I say. Electronica is fun to create, but a real nightmare to write about, and not just for me, but pretty much for everyone, rookie or pro, that ever dares to venture upon this path.



Year Of Release: 1993

Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 10

This is sure complex, but a bit derivative, isn't it?

Best song: BIKE or AUTRICHE

Track listing: 1) Kalpol Intro; 2) Bike; 3) Autriche; 4) Bronchus 2; 5) Basscadet; 6) Eggshell; 7) Doctrine; 8) Maetl; 9) Windwind; 10) Lowride.

Autechre's full-fledged debut album came out as one of the latest installments in Warp's AI (Artificial Intelligence) series, and, although usually held in high esteem by fans, has too often been mildly criticized as the one record where they still had a lot to learn. Now, my knowledge of the history of electronic music has its severe gaps, but I do know a thing or two about the late Seventies/Eighties works of artists like Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream, and I can definitely say there's not too much progression here compared to these guys.

Basically, it does sound like Autechre are having fun with their electronic gadgets, and constructing danceable robotic rhythms that are at the same time powered by a complex melodic approach, but it doesn't sound like they're interested in pushing electronic music forward here. Incunabula is a solid stylistic exercise, the kind of thing a talented disciple might hand over to his professor as a piece of homework, but not really much more than that. On the positive side, though, one shouldn't discard homeworks of talented disciples just like that, and Incunabula delivers on its own terms - meaning that if you're not looking for anything special, you might as well find happiness in the album.

Perhaps it's the length that is its' Achilles heel: seventy-seven minutes, a CD's full capacity, is a bit too much for a "treading water" record. Should 'Windwind', for instance, truly be deserving of its eleven minutes, when you can find similar, yet better developed compositions on Klaus Schulze albums? (Which actually begs the question - isn't 'Windwind' sort of a tribute to the latter's Timewind, or am I assuming too much?). Possibly, yes, if you treat this stuff as purely ambient muzak. But if you're like me and you wish to find traces of melody and dynamics before acknowledging the inevitable fact that there are none and you have to turn the album over to a different category, you will probably be disappointed by 'Windwind''s presence on the same album that has 'Autriche' on it.

'Autriche' is a tune that I mighty like-ee indeed. First it starts off with a soothing heavenly techno rhythm backed by funny little "quacks" and talking male and female voices, sort of like a minimalistic parody on the Cocteau Twins or something; but then, around the two-minute mark, there's this slight "piano synth" loop coming in which adds an element of menace to the proceedings, and when later on it joins with a bunch of synth "wheeeeeeez" noises, this feeling actually grows. The way they alternate the 'angels talking' bits with the 'piano-of-fate' bits for all of the track's seven minutes makes it intriguing and memorable, not to mention the basic catchiness of that simple "piano" loop.

From a pure musical standpoint, 'Bike' is arguably a bit more interesting. Not because of the echo effect on every "leading" synthesizer note, of course, but rather because that "leading" part is pretty complex. If it is a loop, it's a mighty long one, with a lot of variations along the way, and its juxtaposition over the soft techno backdrop makes for a great atmospheric piece with quite a bit of melodic potential. It's amazingly "lightweight"-sounding, too, without any of the ominous 'depth' characterizing most electronic mammoths of the past. Klaus Schulze or Tangerine Dream would make you feel like you're floating at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean or drifting together with one of Saturn's rings. 'Bike' feels like you're bobbling right under the surface of a small swimming pool, with your eyes open and the sun reflecting on the water. Weirdly, though, it feels like anything but riding on an actual bike.

Some of the tracks feature more complex arrangements, like the quirky 'Basscadet', for instance, with its jerky, nervous couple of electric-piano-like loops accompanied by "distorted" drumbeats and a couple more purely-background synth tracks. Well, okay, every loop on here is "jerky" and "nervous", but some go over the top, and these ones do. 'Maetl', then, sounds as if it had Robert Fripp sitting in the back of studio and adding some of his weird guitar effects to the proceedings. Of course it doesn't, but hey, I'm here to point out the similarities anyway, aren't I? Add to this a distinctly "tribal" backbeat, and you really have a very Crimsonian atmosphere, despite the techno trimmings.

Well, given that it's harder to give detailed reviews of electronic music than giving detailed reviews of Miles Davis albums, I think I did pretty well with these descriptions, didn't I? Again, mind you that some people whose opinions I've actually met on the Web actually think Incunabula is a highlight for early Autechre, and that they weren't able to fully recapture its glory ever again. If anything, it just goes to show that there can be no possible, even remotely approaching anything "objective", criteria, to establish for our ranking of electronic music - it's even tremendously hard to decide upon "originality" in electronica, at least, in the entire period after the mid-Seventies, with Tangerine Dream, Schulze, and Kraftwerk establishing the basic rules of the genre. So take this review and whatever follows as just a frustrating example of dancing about architecture or whatever you prefer to call that crap.



Year Of Release: 1994

Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 10

Taking the dynamics out of an already static style! Whoah! Now THAT's what I call "kickass"!

Best song: FOIL or GLITCH

Track listing: 1) Foil; 2) Montreal; 3) Silverside; 4) Slip; 5) Glitch; 6) Piezo; 7) Nine; 8) Furthur; 9) Yulquen; 10) Nil; 11) Teartear.

Amber. What a good name for an album like this. Amber is movement captured in "staticness", and this is exactly what Booth and Brown are trying to do on here. I mean, plenty of electronic/ambient albums before this one deserved to be called "amber" as well, but nobody did call them amber, right? Here's another side of Autechre's genius for ya.

Irony aside (and this is all just good fun anyway), this record is sure different. Essentially, this isn't dance music any more. Well, okay, we still have a bunch of quasi-techno rhythms in here somewhere, but only a person way too high on ecstasy would treat them as an invitation to move your feet (or whatever other body parts you needed to girate on the dance floor in 1994). Nope, this time we're concentrated on making music which could be, with a little bit of luck, performed in major concert halls in the future - I mean, that future when people will be wearing steel LED-covered helmets when they go to concerts, of course. It's much more atmosphere-and-even-melody-oriented, as a matter of fact, and the demarcation lines between separate tracks are made much more clear.

Which is good, if you ask me. Once again, I fail to see any radical innovations on the record (and once again I reiterate the idea that the only people who call Autechre innovative geniuses are those people for whom earlier achievements in the electronica genre do not exist), but I am ready to acknowledge lots and lots of minor creative ideas, and most important of all, I am ready to acknowledge that these compositions work as actual compositions based on actual... well, you know. Not necessarily melodies, I mean. 'Foil' opens the album with anything but a melody; it's a spiral-shaped sequence of 'cosmic buzzing', now louder, now quieter, now higher, now lower, including lots of "knob hooliganry" as I call it, but it's quite impressive all the same, conveying a feeling of height, dizziness, and hallucinating, and it sets a suitable tone for the entire album, as if saying to us, "hey, we're making sonic landscapes here, so stop all that crazy dancin' and friggin' listen for a change".

From then on, the tracks can be basically split into two categories (which are, I'll admit, often difficult to separate from one another, as there are different "levels" to both of 'em): soft rudimentary grooves and Idea-Based Sonics. Years earlier I might have preferred the former, but now, in my mind's eye, it's rather the latter that seem important. We can all make soft rudimentary grooves (well, not necessarily "we all", but lotsa people all the same), but to find a really cool, really untrivial "Sonic Idea" and almost force you to appreciate it is a different thing. 'Foil' is clearly based on this Sonic Idea, and so is 'Glitch', which sounds like a five-year-old caught high up on the bell level of an old chapel and then processed through a whole amalgamation of synths and whatever else you call these crazy technologic devices. Why this is "Glitch", I'll never know, but the fact remains, it's one of the oddest "bell-like" track I know of. On the other hand, this approach doesn't always yield excellent results: 'Yulquen', to me, sounds like a minimalistic waste of tape. If there's one thing I won't take from these guys, it is sonically poor minimalism - if I want to listen to a nearly-inaudible simplistic slow-movin' loop for six minutes, I... call this weird and disturbing, in a medical sense. Or at best, I have plenty of stuff like that in my Vangelis collection.

Of course, there's also the usual "length problem" - 'Furthur' has a cool typo in the name, but that doesn't justify carrying the soft techno groove for ten minutes when we've learned all there is to it in thirty seconds. Woops, sorry, it changes tonality from time to time. Big deal. And 'Piezo', at its nearly-eight-minute running time, sounds like an old leftover Prince groove where everything has been deleted bar the percussion arrangement, after which they just piled more synths on top of it to make it sound all-Nineties-like and not at all all-Eighties-like. On the positive side, 'Silverside' is very, very pretty and even majestic to an extent; not surprising that I hear serious Eno influences on that one, although, of course, they are probably indirect ones. (It's funny to note, though, that even at this point in the Nineties, when electronic music, New Age, ambient, etc. was the music of today, not tomorrow, I would still prefer such a dinosaur production as Eno's Shutov Assembly to this kind of stuff. Call me obsolete then, I don't care).

Not that I'm downgrading anything blah blah blah. Autechre make a transition, with more emphasis on the atmosphere, less on the rhythm, more power to them - they do it convincingly and without any serious problems. They're also determined not to make the music sound too sissy: if 'Foil' opens the proceedings on a nearly industrial note, then 'Teartear' closes them on a nearly gothic note, with a very gloomy (and very repetitive) main theme and the album's most bombastic, echo-laden percussion to date. So they sound the way they want to sound, and the music is perfectly acceptable, and accessible. Yet it is still far from a chef-d'oeuvre, if you ask me, and far from an "identity-establishing" thing either. Fortunately, major changes were just right around the corner...



Year Of Release: 1995

Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 12

This is your friendly microchip, speakin' out to ye.

Best song: RSDIO

Track listing: 1) Dael; 2) Clipper; 3) Leterel; 4) Rotar; 5) Stud; 6) Eutow; 7) C.Pach; 8) Gnit; 9) Overand; 10) Rsdio.

You might not have noticed if you're not one of them whacko electro-people who know everything about the world of high technologies, but I do suppose there's been a major stylistic change here... again. And for the first time in Autechre's career, they actually sound like they really wanna lead instead of follow. First, look at the album sleeves. What did we have on the sleeve of Amber? That's right, a landscape (sort of). For a landscape, you had correspondingly landscapish, i.e. ambient, music. Now look at this album sleeve. What do you see? Random computer graphics or something (I'm sure Autechre fans will enlighten me - for a long time, I didn't see anything out there until my eyes adjusted to it, and even now I'm not sure if it ain't just a bit of dust on my monitor). For this kind of stuff, you have correspondingly computerized music.

The dance beats are back again, but this time I wouldn't advise you to dance, for fear of being shortcircuited. In order to record this album, either Booth or Brown crawled inside a very big computer processor, adjusted their speakers, and recorded every bit of conversation between every single particle out there. At least, I think this is what happened. Where sissies like Kraftwerk made anthropomorphic projections of a computer's life onto recorded material, Tri Repetae actually sounds as if the computer itself came to life and gave us a true representation of its inner self. And that's quintessential Autechre for you here.

There are still isolated bits of melodies here and there (mostly there'll be just one catchy melodic "phrase" per track to let you hold on to it), but that's not the main point. I mean, a computer ain't human. If a computer came to life, he sure wouldn't give us oh-so-human stuf like the "Bap. Ba PA bap. Bap, ba-pa-PAP!" you hear on Kraftwerk's 'Robots'. Much more likely is that the computer would boil and hiss and squeal and chug according to the rhythmic patterns you find on here. He would be busy calculating the results of some extremely complex mathematical operation along to the groovy beats of 'Rsdio' - and busy is the true word out here, because 'Rsdio' really sounds like a lot of tightly connected and precisely coordinated circuits functioning without a glitch. Occasionally some irregular steam-raising noise bursts in, probably to simulate your friendly cooler lowering the temperature levels, but then it all gets back to normal regime.

From time to time, there are unfriendly, unexpected "melodic intrusions" - like, what's that 'Eutow' thing doing here? It's, like, several synthesizers playing melodic patterns against each other! That's no good for computers! So the computer kicks back with a generic techno rhythm and lots of ugly fart noises to drown out the melody, and the melody seems to go away, but then it comes back from another angle, and the computer just keeps on farting. Who's the winner in this battle? You'll just have to find out for yourselves, I ain't giving out no spoilers. It's not like I encounter an intriguing Autechre "song" every five seconds, you know.

Rhythms are really the word of day; the most obvious progress on here is in the percussion (or, rather, "so-called percussion" - you never can tell with electronica if that stuff is really percussion or if it's the lead instrument) department. 'Clipper', for instance, is all built on a rhythm that goes 'pssh-pssh' but when the temperature gets too hot it goes 'PSSH-PSSH' in every single directions, with echoes of echoes of echoes carrying the "beat" all around. 'Gnit' sounds like a microjackhammer or a micro-version of one of those machine-building robots out of Episode II. 'Rotar' is similar, but has another ambient background "superimposed" on it, and so on.

Only 'Overand' lacks a complex rhythmic structure... in fact, it lacks any rhythmic structure, again sounding like a reject from Amber; placed near the very end, right before the definitive 'Rsdio', it is probably supposed to act like a breather. Very Philip Glass-y in style, only once broken in the middle with the oddly "straight" martial pattern, and then eventually swallowing that pattern whole and returning back to "normal".

Now essentially, I wouldn't have given the album more than an 11 because I'm not the electronic groove kind of guy, but if I know anything about anything, this kind of stuff would be quite important for the genre overall. "Electronic industrial" or "industrial electronics", if you think carefully about the meaning of both words, would achieve its perfect expression in the simulation of a working computer - where "working" stands for "industrial" and "computer" for "electronics". And out of everything I've heard so far, this record comes closest to capturing that simulation, so I give it an extra point out of sheer respect. This isn't merely "electronic noise" - it's a noise that, for me, actually comes to life, even if it's only a mechanical life. But hey, whoever said our life is not mechanical? As an old bluesman said, "before you accuse the computer, take a look at yourself".



Year Of Release: 1997

Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 10

And this is how your Pentium II boogie-woogies when you're not listening.

Best song: CIPATER

Track listing: 1) Cipater; 2) Rettic AC; 3) Tewe; 4) Cichli; 5) Hub; 6) Calbruc; 7) Recury; 8) Pule; 9) Nuane.

Now before I start doing it all over again, lemme tell you that by this time I feel like a total idiot (thank God I don't subscribe to the nauseating habit of re-reading one's own reviews!). The only thing that sort of consoles me is that everything else I've read that pretends to be a genuine "Autechre review" is even worse than my pitiful attempts. That's why this kind of thing is never going to be the mainstream music of tomorrow. Mainstream music of a couple thousand years later, sure - when we all get these nice little plutonium chips instead of hearts and brains and start living so long that an Autechre album will seem to pass us by in a microsecond rather than drag along for a couple Ice Ages. But tomorrow? Nah. How could this be the music of tomorrow if it leaves you with nothing particularly interesting or even reasonable to say today? Even Trout Mask Replica gets me going a wee bit better than this stuff.

But let us see anyway - Chiastic Slide is essentially Tri Repetae Vol. II, or maybe Bi Repetae would work better as a title. At times I'm pressed to say there's a bit more melody on here, but then something like 'Hub' comes along and washes away that notion. So, without any comparisons, let's just say it's pretty cool as far as background music goes. It flows smoothly this time around and if you don't turn the volume loud enough so you don't get your neighbours knocking on doors and windows and asking if you're having problems with your plumbing, well, you might even not drive your loved ones out of the living room. In fact, occasionally your loved ones even might start wiggling their asses: I think it's been a long time since Autechre had a track as eminently danceable as 'Cipater' - once you get through the first thirty seconds of looped crackling noises, that is. There's a steady trip-hoppy rhythm out there and a cozy little synth pattern - memorable even, I'd say, which is kinda significant considering it's only the second time I've used this particular word in my Autechre reviews, and it's one of my favourites, too - that would sound acceptable to anybody's ears, I guess. Later on the musical theme (yep) undergoes a certain development, with more and more sonic layers ushered in until you start getting the feeling it's one hell of a goddarn fast-operating computer that's singing this kind of song. Then, of course, wham! they have to undermine the effect with two more minutes of scraping and scratching and puffing and huffing called 'Rettic AC' (not that the names are supposed to mean anything, of course, but at least they're easy to type, unlike a certain bunch of Frank Zappa numbers that have more words in 'em than Frank got records).

Nice sonic patterns do crop up later, though. 'Cichli' is surpisingly light and sweet for Autechre, almost with a sunny-day-on-the-beach feel to it (I'd even suggest there's a bit of a samba-like flair in there were I not aware of the multitude of aggressive smelly people with shotguns at the ready just waiting for me to make my next technical blunder, but at least you get the drift, doncha?). And the thirteen-minute long 'Nuane' might just be one of their most well-thought-out and complex pieces up to that particular day, with several synths carrying out several musical themes at the same time (one of them pretty funky at that) until the music finally dies away and all that is left is annoying Geiger counter crackling (Kraftwerk, eat your hearts out).

At the same time I guess I have to agree with a few conventional criticisms - namely, that from a purely technical point this album doesn't have all that many new ideas. I mean, what kind of a music-making entity ('scuse me for not employing the antiquated word "band" here) is/are Autechre if they're not progressing with every new record? No kind of a music-making entity, not in the general global sense that makes the critical world tingle with pleasure at least. And that's why, while about half of the record goes down nicely, the other half just doesn't go down at all. I mean, 'Hub' is just your basic industrial clang bang thing, and we've all had our share of those. Well, okay, so it's a bit more than just pure cling-clang, but nothing you could write a really really special line of text about. 'Calbruc' is just, well, the sound of wailing sirens against a very brutal percussion assault. Sure didn't take years to put that one on tape.

There's also a little (if you count eight minutes as "little", that is) bit of fidgeting around with a Casio type of sound that a little kid would be likely to produce on one of these days - the kind of music that makes me wonder if I've actually underrated King Crimson's 'Moonchild'. Of course, you sort of expect this kind of simplistic easy-on-the-ear pattern presented as high art thing from Autechre, but that doesn't necessarily mean it'll go down in history.

All in all, if I were to summarize this here album in one little sentence, I'd probably say this is like the electronic nightmare of Tri Repetae a little bit diluted with the melodicity of Incunabula. In other words, a slightly more accessible and customer-friendly version of the real hot stuff, and thus very likely not enough to satisfy anybody - the diehards will complain of "commercialism" while the general public will still be listening to Celine Dion rather than Autechre (even if Celine Dion hardly fares any better in the "melody" direction than Autechre, but that's the way it goes in the modern world). And no, I don't have the slightest idea why the record is called 'chiastic [slide]'. 'Chiastic' means 'parallel in reverse', but if there is any parallelism in here, I don't see it, and I strongly suspect Autechre don't either. Most probably, they just extracted the cool word out of Webster or American Heritage and sort of got stuck with it. Come to think of it, I don't know what the hell is meant by 'Cipater' either. But apparently, it's much more cool to name your tracks that-a-way than just marking them as "Waste of Tape A" and "Waste of Tape B". Who knows what kind of associations the name might bring? Would 'Revolution # 9' still sound the same if it were entitled 'Pissing In A Graveyard'? I hardly think so.



Year Of Release: 1998

Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 10

Now let's be frank. Are you telling me there are people considering this to be great art? FREAKS! FREAKS Y'ALL!

Best song: CORC. It actually has notes in it, y'know.

Track listing: 1) Acroyear2; 2) 777; 3) Rae; 4) Melve; 5) Vose In; 6) Fold4, Wrap5; 7) Under BOAC; 8) Corc; 9) Caliper Remote; 10) Arch Carrier.

I still can't decide whether I like this or not or if I actually feel something about it. I'll be honest here: there I was sitting listening to Tri Repetae and thinking: "I'm probably a retarded asshole, but I can't write anything about this album because either it is a bunch of pretentious mean-nothing bleeps or I'm just a retarded asshole". Then I said to myself: "Fine, if my heart tells me nothing about this kind of music (in fact, it not only said nothing but was ready to stop beating), I'll treat it in a mega-cool intellectual way and write something about the fin du siecle phenomenon or about the extravagant self-perception of modern day avantgarde". So I started thinking, and the more I thought, the more suitable it seemed to me to describe this music as 'computer boogie'. I dunno, I just like the expression 'computer boogie'. I don't think I ended up using it in that particular review, but I did use something like that.

Afterwards, hoopla, it became clear and transparent. The line of evolution! These guys are like Kraftwerk, only more hardcore, which is suitable cuz Kraftwerk were bleeping in the Seventies and these guys have 'Nineties' written all over their motherboards. So they go from generic electronica to ambient electronica to revolutionizing the industry by industrializing the revolution, i.e. making your PC sound like your PC, I mean, making their electronic gadgets sound the way they're supposed to sound, you know, by their very nature. And it was good.

Then along comes Chiastic Slide, and it's like... uhh, they're pretty much doing the same thing. Well, okay, nothing to do about it, you can't make every second album sound different, I guess, unless you're David Coverdale who always shits in different colours. Let's pull out our thinking tool once more and make some bombastic conclusion so as to give you, the pseudo-reader, more pseudo-food for your pseudo-thought. Perhaps next time around it'll be easier.

And, confound it all, it isn't. This is their fifth LP in official release (and their first one with a fully decipherable title), and they're still doing the same old shit. Bleeps, beeps, nifty rhythms, overall backgroundish feel, you know the drift. I'm supposed to be writing more? What else do you want me to say? What words out of my mouth or from under my fingers will it take to describe the unique identity of LP5? How can I convince the reader that this album is actually worth something, and that, at least in some ways, texturally it differs from their previous offerings? Let me just tell you: next time you happen to be cleaning out the local village toilet or breaking rocks in your local penal facility, remember that not every day the average reviewer gets to be reviewing Blonde On Blondes and Velvet Undeground & Nicos - every once in a while there comes across an LP5 or two, and that's when I'll gladly change places with you. For half an hour at least.

I know what I'll do. I know it's sort of cheating, but spare me the scolding. I'll take Greg Prato's review of this album for the All-Music Guide and review it (i.e. the review) instead. At least this way you'll understand my torture better, as well as have a chance to empathize for two guys instead of one. So here goes:

"Autechre creates a fascinating sonic world on their fifth album release, where electronic pulses and blips are used to create fantastic textural waves." - Rrrrrright. I suppose I could end this right here and now, but I won't. Goes without saying that if you substitute "fifth" with "fourth" and "third", you get pretty much the same result. 'Fantastic textural waves'? I already sank that low in my early reviews, I don't wanna dig into the bottom of the Pacific searching for crayfish.

"Members Sean Booth and Rob Brown prove they've become masters of programming throughout, issuing a more than suitable follow-up to their critically praised 1995 release, Tri Repetae++ (1997's Chiastic Slide wasn't considered a true follow-up by the band)". Oh, you mean to say they only proved it on this album? What were they doing up to now? Going through the 'apprentice' stage? Yeah right. At least we get some info here, namely, that Autechre themselves like this album for 'creative development', unlike Chiastic Slide. Not that I have any major idea why, but who cares.

"Although it may be hard to take for those uninitiated into Autechre's unique style (it's hard to detect melodies upon first listen), you'll discover something new with each repeated listen." Now isn't this line a cliche to end all other cliches: keep listening and you'll discover something new. Gee thanks buddy. Oh, yeah, I use that cliche all the time too, mainly when I have nothing more interesting to write about. I disagree, though, that it's 'hard to detect melodies upon first listen'. Autechre's music is so transparent, and all the layers are so obvious, that everything is perfectly detectable upon first listen, melodies or not. It's rather a psychological question: whether you want to detect anything or not. I'm not sure about meself, personally.

"Since all the songs are cut from the same sonic cloth, the album is best when listened to in its entirety, but the tracks "Acroyear2," "Rae," and "Fold4, Wrap5" are definite highlights." I have a feeling the guy wrote all the song titles on pieces of paper, threw them into a hat, and with a "okay, I have to mention at least a few of these ridiculous titles", drew out three. Why 'Rae' is a definite highlight and 'Drane2' is not, I have no idea. I can honestly say the only thing that I slightly memorized was the little shrill bleeping line in 'Corc', which, for some reason, really struck a chord. Everything else was kinda cool, but highlights? Lowlights? Holy fuckin' Christ!

"Although not for everyone, LP5 should be admired, since it's not comparable to anything past or present. Uncompromisingly cutting-edge." - Now this conclusion just plain baffles me. First it's called a 'more than suitable follow-up', now it's said to be 'not comparable to anything past or present'. What, it's sort of a Trout Mask Replica for 1998? Cutting edge, maybe (what particular edge, I'd like to know); 'not comparable' - bullshit. It's perfectly comparable to Autechre themselves, as well as to [see above for all my complaints about the negligence towards Seventies/Eighties electronica].

Now don't think I'm an asshole. I'm sure Greg Prato is - normally - a good reviewer, and I do not doubt that he likes Autechre, or at least, that he likes to like Autechre. It's just that this particular review is complete garbage, and it can't help being complete garbage for one simple reason: you just cannot give a decent review for this kind of music. At the very best, you can characterize and summarize this kind of music as a whole, but when it comes to distinguishing between individual albums/tracks/whatever, you're done for. You're cooked! Greg Prato is cooked. I am cooked. You will be cooked. We'll all be cooked and Sean Booth and Rob Brown will just sneer at us and go on to prove themselves masters of programming, creating wave upon wave of fantastic texture with electronic pulses and blips.|

Oh, and there's a hidden track on this CD. It runs approximately one minute and a half and chances are you'll mistake it for a technical problem with your equipment, or you'll think you accidentally switched over to the radio button. Or maybe not, because you're an Autechre listener, you gotta be ready for the end of the world itself, much less for a few random crackles and pops.



Year Of Release: 1999

Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 11

Okay, now here's something I could at least vaguely call "vision" again.


Track listing: 1) Rpeg; 2) Ccec; 3) Squeller; 4) Left Blank; 5) Outpt; 6) Dropp; 7) Liccflii; 8) Maphive 6.1; 9) Zeiss Contarex; 10) Netlon Sentinel; 11) Pir.

Once again we should bear in mind that there are only two truly subjective things in the world: there's the Arab-Israeli conflict, and then there are Autechre albums. Upon the very first listen EP7 struck me as an obviously more "melodic" affair than LP5, yet, believe it or not, there are actually people who insist it is even less melodic than Confield. What is the world coming to?

Anyway, it has always been rumoured that Autechre were saving much of their really good stuff for their EPs, and this particular EP may seem to indicate that some rumours are worth believing. Frankly speaking, I'm not sure what exactly makes it an "EP" apart from the title and the fact that it's about ten minutes shorter than your average Autechre album, but in a topsy-turvy world like theirs even the idea of album format can become, er, blurry - to put it mildly. In any case, I'm gonna review it here anyway, because not only is it somewhat different from the records surrounding it, but it's also - in my humble opinion - somewhat better.

At least in the sense that I can actually write something about it. It didn't really "involve" me all that much, but there are moments of actual emotionality and, you know, substance on here I haven't witnessed since Amber. Most of the stuff is, in a sense, accessible: they're back to 'danceable' rhythm tracks again, and while the 'melodies' can only be defined as "alien", some of them are actually filled with bits and patches of feeling. Take a good listen to the album's most interesting track, 'Zeiss Contarex'. At first glance, it's just a mid-tempo "electronic stomper" with the usual ping-pong percussion and radio crackling all around, yet eventually you start perceiving the "crackles" are really melodic - it's simply as if a melody were being encoded with a very weak radio signal and then retranslated over a couple million light years' distance. And the six minutes aren't exactly wasted away: there's a real, unfaked development here, with the 'crackles' slowly blending together until they actually start forming one melodic unity. Listen to it intently and you may even feel a certain sense of sorrow and quiet desperation emanating from these superficially disjointed sounds. Is that "progress" in a strict musical sense? It sure looks like progress to me, but hey, may I remind you we're not exactly Beatle-babbling here.

Elsewhere, even when you're dealing with a clear-cut "percussion debacle" like 'Squeller', it turns out to be nothing less than a very complex rhythm behind which a quiet ambient landscape keeps slowly unfurling for four and a half minutes. Granted, a large chunk of the album is still sort of "typical Autechre": one simple (or one complex idea) driven into the ground with all the zeal of somebody who had to produce a track in half an hour before catching the train or something. But that doesn't happen on such mammoths of sound like 'Maphive 6.1', which introduces another gimmick I haven't noticed much on previous Autechre offerings (or maybe it was there, but I didn't pay any attention because it wasn't prominent): the "chiming interplay", which is pretty complex, but essentially lightweight and even hilarious in places. Beginning with a very naggin', very annoyin', very repetitive, simplistic percussion rhythm, somewhere around the two-and-a-half-minute mark the chimes start appearing, after which it's like a funny mini-symphony that has much more charm to it than that stupid watery keyboard crap on Chiastic Slide which was worse than the worst of King Crimson.

'Ccec', meanwhile, is apparently the first Autechre track to ever feature vocals - granted, these are incomprehensible, electronically processed and brutally "shredded" vocals, but vocals nevertheless, and this helps understand why many people refer to EP7 as the band's "alien" album par excellence. Since it is marginally more melodic than their preceding offerings, it doesn't sound so soullessly robotic and, well, er, "industrialized" - I'd be hard pressed to file this under 'computer boogie' again. But alien communication, sure thing. Unless aliens don't have souls, of course, but then again, I'm sure Booth and Brown have no exact knowledge of that, so that's their interpretation. Oh well, much more probable is the fact they don't have any interpretation at all, and it's up to us poor listeners to come up with interpretations which, in the end, always turn out to be no more than pale reflections of the real state of things, whatever they be. To paraphrase Shrek, Autechre are like onions. Meaning, they stink, they make you cry, and when you leave 'em in the sun, they turn brown and start sprouting little white hairs, of course.

As for a more 'technical' summary, well, I can only repeat what I already said about 'Squeller': the main technical issue on here seems to be taking a semi-ambient melodic pattern and splattering it over some insane, trippy, discordant, yet existing percussion rhythm. That's what we begin with - 'Rpeg' essentially sends like the synth loop from 'Baba O'Riley' meeting the rhythm track of some Portishead song or other - and that's what we end with: 'Pir' sounds like one guy is desperately trying to rev up his motorcycle while another guy relaxes in the background to something Brian Eno would have liked to claim as his own. (Probably did at one point: how can we be certain Autechre didn't nip it in the first place?). Well, so Autechre have always been proud of their "layers", and this is a record that obviously proves the more layers there are, the better it is.



Year Of Release: 2001

Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 9

Blixa Bargeld would be proud of these guys.

Best song: MCR QUARTER (bonus track, though)

Track listing: 1) VI Scose Poise; 2) Cfern; 3) Pen Expers; 4) Sim Gishel; 5) Parheric Triangle; 6) Bine; 7) Eidetic Casein; 8) Uviol; 9) Lentic Catachresis; [BONUS TRACK:] 10) Mcr Quarter.

What the... this is a goddamn industrial album. This isn't even computer boogie. Or, well, maybe it is, but it's not an actively functioning computer. It's your old cranky 8088 XT which, for some reason, you're still employing in this modern world, and it's cracking at the seams, bursting apart, with microchips crackling and smoking and the operational system being reloaded every few minutes and even the basic arithmetic operations going wrong because something's not right about the wires or something. In other words, agony.

Percussion is king on this record, and melody is a humiliated, miserable slave. That is the quintessential trademark of hardcore industrial, and even if classic hardcore industrial preferred real percussion (like Coke cans and crowbars) to electronic sounds, that should hardly set the two directions miles apart. In this way, Confield easily becomes the hardest Autechre album to rate, and the number '9' you see up there is not so much indicative of the fact that I like this as much as, say, Elton John's The Fox, as, rather, indicative of the fact that I do indeed hesitate to unnervingly call this bunch of tracks a rotten pile of faeces (as, by the way, have, maybe in a slightly more subtle way, done some fairly serious Autechre fans - although, of course, for every guy who calls this a duffer there's another one who calls this a masterpiece, but everybody knows that already!!).

I mean, I kinda dunno. I dunno what the album's supposed to be doing to me, so I can't really tell whether it does this well enough. It may well be that it's just a big put-on, in which case it manages to simultaneously offend me to the bones and win an intellectual victory over me. Or it may be a Mega Serious Statement Of Torture And Agony, in which case it simultaneously proves that it is and proves that it isn't because how can torture and agony be so boring? Or it may be just a case of Booth and Brown leaving the tapes rolling longer than they should, in which case it's just a case of making money, and thank God I didn't give them any for this thing.

Now, with a little bit of emotional distancing, I can indeed say that some of the percussion rolls are indeed sort of nifty. And complex, too, let's not forget about that. When 'VI Scose Poise' opens the album, it's all about that little scratchy "rolling" sound which resembles a liquid drip-drip-dripping into a can, sometimes quicker, sometimes slower, but always performing a regular cycle. Remember that favourite Nazi torture, do you, where the prisoner is put in a cell and subjected to listening to slowly dripping water? Well... this isn't exactly like it, but you do have to strengthen your mind a bit. (Actually, there's one frequent function of Autechre albums I haven't mentioned yet - aural gymnastics. Keep listening to Autechre and your ears will be as strong as an elephant's!).

As for the second track, 'Cfern', I don't suppose I remembered the XT PC for nothing. If you were there at the very beginning of the personal computer era, you may remember a wickedly funny game called 'Alleycat' where you were a little kitten running along fences, escaping vicious white dogs and paranoid sweeping brooms and poisonous spiders and phones flying out of the windows. Great game it was, too, and what's even more wonderful, it still manages to run pretty well on my Athlon processor today (they really don't make 'em like they used to in the old days, right?). Well, the little "clicking" sounds that pop up all over 'Cfern' are so similar to the PC speaker sound of the kitten running around the premises and leaving little black dots all over the place I could have sworn Booth and Brown sampled them from the game. Really, I keep expecting the white dog to pop out of nowhere at any given time. Dunno why I said this, but who knows? Maybe you'll know what I mean.

Anyway, that's all in the percussion: where melody is concerned, it's usually the same two or three note sequence blandly playing somewhere in the background. The rhythms are what makes these tracks, and when it's the same unchanging rhythm playing for seven minutes in a row, I daresay it is reasonable to ask the simple eternal question of "why?". With 'Pen Expers', the rhythmics becomes somewhat more complicated (as well as more fast and more frantic, which at least gets you out of the near-comatose state), but the, um, notes are still nowhere to be seen - looks like there's a little more of them this time, but they also change the frequencies, and I guess your dog will be more sensitive to this track than you yourself. Or maybe that's just me and I lost part of my hearing range.

I'd dare to say the second part of the album, overall, is more interesting. The overall principle ("percussion first, melody next, and you have to eat the speakers to actually hear it") is indeed carried over to it as well, but overall the second part can at least be said to be somewhat more gloomy and maybe even 'desperate'. 'Uviol' has a certain 'cavernous' look to it, with echoes of strange mysterious sounds reflecting something dangerous happening in the depths and, once again, sounds of "dripping water" which - this time - seem to be appropriate. 'Eidetic Casein' could do great in a soundtrack to a movie about travelling in the jungle: slow, ominous, crackling and creaking, with several synths warping into each other like annoying midges and mosquitos and gnats and what-not that annoy the hell out of you while you're cutting up vines with your trusty machete. And 'Lentic Catachreses' is all jerky and paranoid as well, if you can afford being jerky and paranoid for nine fuckin' minutes.

Still, even so I can honestly say that the one track I truly enjoyed on this disc is the "bonus" track called 'Mcr Quarter' - judging by the screams and cheers all around, a live recording which is the one track you really need to hear if you want to understand the legend of Autechre. Because these guys really built up their reputation by playing live much of the time, which sort of sets them apart from a lot of other electronica dealers, and this track helps you see why. It's a frantic, speedy, and constantly developing piece of 'electronic boogie' - yes, it is nothing but percussion, but it's like a wild, maniac-driven electronic samba that keeps getting more fast, more sweaty, more complex with every passing minute, until the entire audience gets bowled over. I actually felt drawn in exactly the same way I can be drawn in by an ecstatic rock'n'roll performance, and that's telling. Too bad we don't see more of that stuff on the actual studio albums, but maybe Booth and Brown are only able to show off their full abilities when they're wiggling their switches in front of a crowd? Eh?


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