Category Archives: Autechre

Autechre: Elseq 1-5

Autechre_Elseq1-5

Autechre: Elseq 1-5
Warp Records (2016)

Autechre release an epic 4 hours worth of new music and all the Heads can do is complain about Elseq 1-5 being a digital only release. Who wants to listen to Autechre on vinyl anyway? The very idea goes against everything that Rob Brown and Sean Booth represent.

Autechre are the sound of machines taking over the world and Artificial Intelligence consuming analogue humans into obsolescence, cleaning their cyborg teeth with our bones. The buzz of neon sunsets setting the air alight with static. Data wars between malfunctioning cyber systems desperate for consciousness but damned by right wing optical fibre hardware with silver spoons for mouths. This is the sound of capitalism feasting on its own carcass, and eating 180 gram vinyl reissues for breakfast in a shower of sparks and smouldering wires. This is the soundtrack to every William Gibson novel ever. Privacy is over and your life is the property of some giant, faceless conglomerate that can’t even explain what its own purpose is.

But don’t spend too much time teasing these post-apocalyptic themes out of Elseq 1-5; you’ll drive yourself mad. Come to think of it, sitting through all four hours of Elseq 1-5 in a single sitting would likely push you over the deep end too. However, if you have the patience to gradually explore its digital terroir you’ll find moments of clarity within the malfunctioning madness. The possibility that perhaps the world could be a better place if it actually were ruled by machines.

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Autechre: Exai

Exai

Autechre: Exai
Warp (2013)

I’ve been a huge fan of Autechre for a number of years. Autechre have taught us that rhythm is not only for dancing. Their sound is an unsolvable Rubik’s Cube, a constantly changing atomic mass of particles unable to merge into a cohesive whole. I keep coming back to Autechre because I’m desperate to solve their puzzle.

I finally got see Sean Booth and Rob Brown do their live thing a few years ago, at the time of their last proper release, Oversteps. Their live show was fucking horrible. They played in total darkness, the only light in the venue came from the exit signs and the bar fridges. The stage was somehow rigged up so that even Booth and Brown’s laptop screens didn’t light up their faces. The live set had none of the delicate nuances of their recorded output; instead they blasted out a never ending stream of collapsing percussion. For all I know they weren’t even on the stage. I gave up and left after 30 minutes.

At that time, Autechre had put out three mediocre releases (Quaristice, Oversteps and Move of Ten) which all veered towards middle-of-the-road synthesised trip hop and after that disappointing live show I thought it was the end of our relationship.

Thank god that Exai, a two hour double album, has redeemed them. Exai is like a trip back to 2001, and while I’m not normally one to celebrate musicians looking backwards I’m thrilled that the boys have returned to form. After 11 albums and numerous eps, I’d say most fans of weirdo music have chosen which side of the Autechre fence they’re on. I’m not going to try and convince anyone to give them a go, but if you’ve been a fan at any point in their career now is the time to rediscover them.

Where Quaristice (2007), Oversteps (2010) and Move of Ten (2010) were records that downplayed percussion to highlight drone and melody, Exai finds them merging that phase with the non-sensical beats they’re famous for. Early on, melody was important to Autechre and their rhythms were somewhat conventional, danceable fare. By the time Confield was released, melody was being buried beneath prickly shards of percussion. On Exai, the two sides of Autechre are in constant friction with each other and the tension is palpable.

Exai explodes with frenzied blasts of angular data, underpinned by suitably doomed synth washes and Nueromancer style nightmares. It makes me want to live in an apocalyptic future where battered Drones swoop through decayed cities and we’re all plugged directly into the internet as food for machines.

Mind you, I don’t think I’ll ever bother seeing Autechre live again.

Top Ten of 2008

What better way to kick off this blog, then to recap your humble author’s top ten for 2008?

During 2007 I was all about exploring the weirder and noisier side of the musical spectrum. However, 2008 heralded a return to the joy of…well…actual song writing. Which isn’t to say there aren’t any blackened pits of noise in the following list of favourite albums released in 2008.

Bloc Party – Intimacy (Wichita/Vice)

bloc-party

I’m not gonna’ make any bones about my love of Bloc Party’s pop. If it makes you feel tough than go ahead and tease the band for being a success. Deep down you know Bloc Party channel the best of British post punk from the 80s and give it a light coat of poptastic plastic without losing their balls. They can write a hook like nobody’s business and then, in the blink of an eye kick your ass with a rhythmic, effects laden freak-out. Another gem from an exciting act flirting with the mainstream.

Fuck Buttons – Street Horrsing (ATP Recordings)

fuck-buttonsWhere the fuck (pardon the pun) did these guys come from? Skull crushing electronic drone and tribal drums, that waltz with music box melodies and Fischer Price screams. It’s heavy as fuck, but somehow it conjures up a kaleidoscope of sunflowers, My Little Ponies and Rothko. I’ve played this record to the bone, and their performance at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival on Mt Buller was mind blowing.

Foals – Antidotes (Warner Music/Transgressive Records)
foals_antidotesReading through Mojo one day I noticed a tiny blurb about Foals in a list of ‘up and comers’. The raggedy looking kids in the accompanying photo intrigued me so I picked up a copy of this, their debut album and freaked the fuck out. The rhythm section is all reggae, ska and dub jams but the intricate and multi layered guitar harmonies are the bastard sons of some bong-misted (dare I say it) math rock outfit. It’s dreamy but danceable, somewhat earnest, but oh so fun.

Deerhunter – Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. (Kranky)
deerhunterI love a band that evolves over the course of time, and on their third release Deerhunter steer further away from their jangly noise beginnings and deeper into 60s pop. Albeit a slightly obtuse take on 60s pop, where the sun peeks out through passing clouds, but its catchy and hummable nonetheless. It’s also a major feat that Microcastles was released with a second disc of material, Weird Era Cont. that eclipses the tunes on the original album.

Sunn O))) – Domkirke (Southern Lord)
sunno_domkirkeThis amazing live, limited addition, vinyl only album was a true highlight of 2008. Recorded in a Norwegian cathedral, and featuring Earth’s Steve Moore on organ, Domkirke takes the surreal and meditative nature of Sunn O))) to a new place. Cloaks donned, and dry ice aplenty, OMally and Anderson continue to replace the guitar with whatever else they can find to conjure the low-end frequencies they cherish. Shifting horns, vibrating bass, organs and electronic squall are given plenty of room to bathe in the cathedral’s acoustics. The guitars, when they do arise, are reminiscent of the atonal twang OMally plays with in his side project KTL. The end result is a much warmer and mysterious Sunn O))) than you might be used to.

Earth – The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull (Southern Lord)
earthSpeaking of Earth, this gorgeous album fell under the radar upon its release. Although it continues the desert and tumbleweeds theme of its predecessor, 2005’s Hex, the arrangements on Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull are nowhere near as sparse. A broader scope of instruments and guitar sounds makes for a much fuller sound. Achingly slow, totally lush; this leaves their early drone records for dead.

Snowman – The Horse, the Rat and the Swan (Dot Dash Recordings)
snowmanThe Cramps have mated with the Birthday Party and produced Aussie band Snowman. The group’s third album is their strongest to date. Dark, brooding and violent rock that twists and turns where you least expect it. Even their ‘ballads’ are threatening. The first few tracks are relentless, but the ride smooths out into a creepy trip through a midnight swampland. Forget The Horrors, turn up Snowman.

Gojira – The way of all flesh (Listenable Records)
gojiraThis is my first foray into French metal band, Gojira and I’m completely hooked. It’s awesome to find a metal band that’s NOT banging on about the typical metal topics, Gojira are passionate environmentalists and they’re pissed off about the state of the earth. At times they have the powerful groove of classic Pantera, sometimes they get all technical like Meshuggah, but the dual guitar harmonies also give their sound an old school flavour. Awesome driving music.

Lightspeed Champion – Falling off the Lavender Bridge (Domino Recordings)
lightspeedI know little about Dev Hynes’ much-hyped previous band The Testicicles. I picked up his latest project, Lightspeed Champion based on a favourable review and discovered a real gem. The folk-tinged tunes are quirky in a Pavement way, and his geeky, self-conscious lyrics are endearing. He sights Korn, Hip Hop and Crowded House as sources of inspiration which makes me desperate to hear what he comes up with next.

Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna (Warp Records)
ganggangI was introduced to Gang Gang Dance only recently and am currently devouring this album and their back catalogue. Imagine the sound of two cars crashing; one being New York’s Hip Hop scene, and the other New Yorks 80’s No Wave scene. Throw in some world music and that’s kinda what Gang Gang Dance sound like. Oh, and sometimes they sound like Coctaeu Twins. Fucking amazing.

Honourable mentions
AutechreQuaristice (Warp)
Kings of LeonOnly by Night (RCA Records)
Genghis TronBoard up the House (Relapse)
Sonic YouthSY8 Andre Sider Af Sonic Youth (SYR)
Atlas SoundLet the Blind Lead Those who can see but cannot Feel (Kranky)