AUTECHRE: QUARISTICE (2008)
1) Altibzz; 2) The Plc; 3) IO; 4) plyPhon; 5) Perlence; 6) SonDEremawe; 7) Simmm; 8) paralel Suns; 9) Steels; 10) Tankakern; 11) rale; 12) Fol3; 13) fwzE; 14) 90101-5l-l; 15) bnc Castl; 16) Theswere; 17) WNSN; 18) chenc9; 19) Notwo; 20) Outh9X.
Finally, time for some change... cosmetic change, that is. Quaristice is said to have grown out of a lengthy, spontaneous «jam session» by Booth and Brown, over which they managed to overload their fantasies and create innumerable sequences of sequences. Consequently the sequences were sequenced into somewhat inconsequential subsequences, so that Quaristice consists of a record-setting twenty tracks, few of them running over four minutes — rather a rude violation of Autechre's normal work philosophy, I'd say.
Those who are particularly disturbed by this rudeness will probably want to own the limited edition 2-CD version of the album; the second CD consisted of several alternate versions, presented closer to their original incarnations and our usual expectations of Autechre. Basically, you not only get to see the idea as such — you get to see its birth, growth, maturation, gradual and painful realization of its utter meaninglessness / uselessness, and, finally, its slow death from natural causes or a quickly staged suicide.
The main LP generally focuses on the idea itself — one of Autechre's usual grooves, reduced to mini-size. Supposedly, this should give Quaristice a more dynamic aspect: instead of just chillin' out to long patches of ambient waves or sweetly purring microchips, you get to see rapid changes of texture that may or may not form a musical story. Who knows, you might even start making predictions about what's it's gonna be like five minutes from now — a situation formerly unthinkable with Autechre (because the most likely outcome is — «five minutes from now, it's going to be exactly as it is right now, plus a jackhammer»).
Problem is, apart from shorter track lengths, the only shift is backwards: they are continuing the subtle regression to the «icy» atmosphere of their early albums. Most of the percussion parts are heavier, once again with an industrial flavor, and the accompanying minimalistic keyboard parts speak either of the hand of doom or of the face of eternity. The opening track is so deceptively serene you'd think they were covering a Brian Eno sonic painting — but once ʽThe Plcʼ breaks through with its jiggly beats, paranoid pseudo-record-scratching noises and cold blasts of MIDI winds, it's back to old school again. Very old, as a matter of fact.
On the other hand, I fully admit that «atmospherics» is back here, in a big, big way. The whole thing should be played loud, in headphones, preferably in a dark room, and eventually these sonic waves will flush you out in outer space, rather than cram you inside your dusty computer processor. But the «individual» tracks, short or long, do not really work as individual tracks — at best, they work as one more soundtrack to the art of running along the streets of an alien world. Each street has a finite length, yet few, if any, have an unforgettable face of their own.
Cutting a long digression in half, Quaristice is a fairly «normal» record compared to everything post- and including Confield, and it will probably stimulate an easier and clearer emotional response than the pretentious conundrums of its predecessors. There is nothing too radically innovative about it, though, and the emotional response itself smells a little moldy, so you will just have to decide for yourselves. Nothing unlistenable here, but still recommended only for absolute beginners or total experts.
Check "Quaristice" (MP3) on Amazon