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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Autechre: Chiastic Slide


AUTECHRE: CHIASTIC SLIDE (1997)

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

If you think about it, a «chiastic slide» cannot really be a true slide, because anything chiastic in nature would have to revert to its original position in the end. If you slide down, you have to slide back up by means of a counterforce. That's an odd idea, to be sure, but what exactly does it have to do with Autechre's fourth LP? Unfortunately, nothing. It all makes about as much sense as the track titles which, by now, have completely lost connection with linguistic reality.

Critical opinion tends to veer towards disappointment for this one, probably for a simple reason: Chiastic Slide offers no advances over Tri Repetae, and, in some ways, sounds like a slightly less inspired copy of its predecessor, sometimes even seemingly retreating — parts of it are con­ventionally more «ambient-melodic», so that it cannot be considered a true sequel to «One Day In The Life Of A Curious Microchip». Worse, the long tracks sometimes sound disturbingly repeti­tive — something like ʽRecuryʼ goes on for ages without any tiny fluctuating subtleties that made the band's earlier attention-probers full of intrigue.

Of course, it is very much up to your imagination how forgiving you will be in the end. For in­stance, having listened to some of the tracks from both albums back-to-back, I was sort of set on imagining that Tri Repetae was all about a perfectly balanced world of friendly elementary par­ticles, whereas Chiastic Slide is about perfect patterns being broken down and severely jostled into a state of partial disfunctionality. As evidenced most transparently on the static hiss blasts in ʽRettic ACʼ, the crazy percussion rhythms on ʽCichliʼ, the crackles and sparking off of dead equipment on ʽHubʼ, and the mini-explosions on ʽCalibrucʼ.

But then this scheme totally breaks down on tracks like ʽCipaterʼ, where the cogs grind in good harmony and the faraway melancholic synthesizers beep and bleep in solemn dirge mode, or ʽPuleʼ, where the percussion dissipates completely and all that is left is a large cloud of foggy chimes interlocking with each other at predictable intervals. Here the personal concept for which you have wrecked your brain for so long explodes, and you are left with the sad truth: Chiastic Slide is just a random collection of «some more of our shit». Not much better and not much worse — but with Tri Repetae, Autechre effectively locked themselves into «The Innovator's Trap»: every new album of theirs is expected to break new ground, and when it doesn't, your friendly synthesizer dies from a broken heart.

In the end, I feel like joining with those critics that gave the album a thumbs down, rather than those hardcore fans who seek religious epiphanies in each hiss and crackle ever hissed and crackled by Booth and Brown. None of the individual tracks honestly stand out — nor does the entire album cling well together as a single concentrated assault on the senses. And almost each of these tracks could be twice as short without losing its point. And are those three minutes of pure static at the end of ʽNuaneʼ really necessary?..

Check "Chiastic Slide" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Chiastic Slide" (MP3) on Amazon

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