AUTECHRE: LP5 (1998)
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; 11) Drane2.
If you do not greet the next Autechre album with the question «So, what's new?», let me know your microchip family name so that I can address you with the correct title — yes, people who listen to Autechre because they enjoy their music emotionally freak me out that much. (Fortunately, I have yet to meet one in person). But if, like me, you have successfully rerouted your brain wires for the «surprise-processing» center whenever you listen to Autechre, LP5 is probably going to be a blast after the bleak mopiness of Chiastic Slide.
At this point, it feels like these guys are almost ready to leave the very concept of a «musical note» behind them, and concentrate on the amazing diversity of thumping, clomping, stomping, exploding, hissing, boiling, and bubbling patterns that illustrate the average day in the life of an electronic entity. They are not quite there yet — total percussion nirvana wouldn't arrive until Confield — but they are getting extremely close. At the very least, it would take quite a serious amount of substances to be able to dance one's head off to the merry sounds of The Electronic Shaman emanating from ʽ777ʼ or the busy quarks playing table tennis with each other throughout ʽUnder BOACʼ.
On the other hand, the faint little shades of «melody» that still remain can be more evocative than the fuller sound of Chiastic Slide — ʽRaeʼ, for instance, has a melancholic, dungeon-like attitude, as if the sad, drawn out synth notes were luckless prisoners held inside the force field of the pulsating percussion beats, hopelessly pleading to get out. And on ʽDrane2ʼ, the notes twinkle, roll over, and fizzle out spasmodically as if some sort of semi-intelligent robot were trying to imitate elements of an Indian droning raga, without much success but with quite a bit of persistence.
That said, I cannot help but feel that all of this is not quite as breathtaking as it is implied to be. The tracks have cautiously been trimmed down to reasonable length, are dutifully provided with individual identities, and officially represent a «step forward», no doubt. But the record still does not quite live up to the first two tracks: ʽAcroyear2ʼ and ʽ777ʼ push this percussion-heavy thing almost to its limits, almost as if the idea were to make you feel stuck in the middle of the Hadron Collider, and then the intensity recedes and everything else feels sort of anticlimactic. Say what you will, but at least ʽVose Inʼ and ʽFold4ʼ can qualify as «filler», and probably other tracks as well. Not every idea of the Booth and Brown brothers is supposed to work, you know.
One interesting idea I have encountered several times is that albums like LP5 may be supposed to make the listener feel pity for the machines — actually, this is quite close to the feeling I got myself when listening to ʽRaeʼ. I am not sure if Booth and Brown themselves go that far; I do not think they have any strong personal philosophy attached to their fingers when they are pushing the buttons. But they certainly are inventors of a machine-centered sonic language, which they may not quite well understand themselves, and if so, the first two tracks and a few others on LP5 are like the perfect introductory units in that language's textbook for beginners. As silly as that analogy might be, at least it earns the album a thumbs up, and never mind the filler. Since each Autechre album, on average, runs for about seventy minutes, you can easily subtract thirty minutes of whatever you think fillerish from each — and that'll be just enough, since who can take in seventy minutes of Autechre without interruption, anyway? Nobody here but us, slaves of the mercyless record reviewing industry.
PS: The real question, of course, is this: did the Malevich family have to sue the creative duo for copyright infringement? The album cover comes in black or white, for that matter, depending on the edition.
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