Autechre Push On
Album Review - Autechre - Exai (March 5, 2013 on Warp Records).
Autechre don’t care what you think. They’ve been doing this for years. With 11 albums and over 19 singles and EP’s under their belt, Mancunian duo Rob Brown and Sean Booth have continuously and relentlessly forced their heavy-duty assault on the public, making you feel violated like that first evening you stayed back after school. Pushing two generations of listeners, either as Autechre, Lego Feet, or as part of the Gescom collective, they have helped shape the world of underground contemporary electronic music, while seemingly refusing, point blank, to make anything you can dance to.
Enter Warp, the iconic IDM freight train that has carried Autechre’s dank cargo for well over two decades. With perhaps a more corporate feel these days, compared to their independent groundbreaking influence of yesteryear, Warp have the experience and confidence required to release this epic, 2-hour long, 4-LP set.
To the unsuspecting public, this album could be a marathon of self-indulgence, but for those who know, it might just be Autechre’s return to form. With more hits than Whitney Huston’s crack pipe, Exai is 17 tracks strong, ranging from the fragile, almost transparent “Cloudline”, to the downright disturbing “Flep”, taking you to places even Venetian Snares feared to go.
For “Recks On”, Autechre struggle to drag their feet through the synthetic quicksand, while the abused and reused “When the Levee Breaks” snare gives a nod to their hip hop roots. In fact, there are plenty of props here to whet your appetite for a trip down the Autechre memory lane. Perhaps their last few mediocre releases have given them time to reflect.
Out of character for Autechre, “Deco Loc” manages to obliterate only 99% of the vocal sample, creating sonic food for the bass drum. Like a carefully confused jumble of bric-a-brac, it spits out sample shards like diarrhea from a super-colon high-fibre diet. Perhaps unbelievably, these vocal chop-ups are not a million miles away from Bullion’s fantastic Young Heartache EP.
“Nodezsh” throws its bent-out-of-shape notes deep into the dakest caverns of your psyche with very uneasy intent. These sounds just reek of rot, fueling their vast array of DIY synthesizers, drum machines and samplers, crudely wired up like the rerouted electricity of a Vancouver grow-house.
Resembling earlier Squarepusher acidity, “Tuinorizn” keeps under the radar, moving slowly and confidently through four minutes of detail, showing the kind of restraint that can only come with experience, and allowing the simple sub bass to marry all the elements together, proving itself as some of the stronger material on an already robust album.
It should be noted that with possibly the politest slap on the wrist from my editor regarding my recent misspellings of track names (smiley face), it gives me great pleasure to say that, with song titles like“Irlite (Get O)”, “Jatevee C” and “Runrepik”, there is no need to break down the album into single elements, as most of these songs are probably heavily edited vesions of much longer pieces from closely related sessions, and are presented as an almost start-to-finish listening experience. But this isAutechre, and you knew that already.
“YJY UX” is the final chapter, and sums up AE as a true force to be reckoned with; soundscapes culled from the top shelf that will just change the way you feel. Autechre reach again for Godfather status.
No commercial potential.
by Jon Martin