AUTECHRE: EXAI (2013)
1) FLeure; 2) irlite (get 0); 3) prac-f; 4) jatevee C; 5) T ess xi; 6) vekoS; 7) Flep; 8) tuinorizn; 9) bladelores; 10) 1 1 is; 11) nodezsh; 12) runrepik; 13) spl9; 14) cloudline; 15) deco Loc; 16) recks on; 17) YJY UX.
The old popular saying goes that «more Autechre is better Autechre», because the only thing to beat five blows of an electronic jackhammer is fifty blows of an electronic jackhammer, and the only thing to beat fifty blows... well, you get it. From this point of view, what could be better than, finally, to have ourselves a double CD of brand new Autechre material — one hundred and twenty minutes of slaughtered prime time in total? And, come to think of it, how come it happened that it is only now, in 2013, twenty years into their illustrious career, that Booth and Brown have finally decided to go all the way?
Unfortunately, at the moment (I have only sat through twice through the whole thing — maybe a third listen could clinch it, but then you'd have to pay me), my answer is crude, simple, impolite, and nasty. All too often, one is tempted to mask the poor quality of one's creative ideas with sheer quantity. A turd is just a turd — a mausoleum of turds piled atop each other is a work of art if you manage to mold it into an imposing shape. And no, I am not going as far as to suggest that most of the tracks on Exai are «electronic turds», because I wouldn't even know what that is, much less what would one look like coming from Autechre's guts. But I am going to suggest that there is nothing of interest to look forward to on Exai, and that is that.
Formally, this is a retreat back from the curious synthesis of «melody», «humming tone», and «jarring noise» on Oversteps into the safer, tried and true territory of their post-Confield recordings. Once again, it is the confused-and-confusing sub-atomic beats that rule the day — and it is true that Booth and Brown have a seemingly infinite amount of combinations to try out, but this would be more of interest to an expert in combinatorics than a simple listener who cannot remember ever pledging to decipher, catalog, and analyze every percussive pattern generated by the two geniuses. In other words, it no longer stimulates me even on a purely detached, «intellectual» level — no more than a tenth generation video game targeted at the same old market.
Even worse, much too often it looks as if they are not trying at all. The longest track on the album (ʽbladeloresʼ) runs for twelve minutes on what seems like one and only one musical idea — a leisurely revolving «warped» noise wave, twirling mysteriously in the background while the usual jackhammers are put in «relaxed» autopilot mode in the foreground. There is nothing innovative about this, and from an atmospheric point of view, it seems so boring that I wouldn't even be able to be lulled to sleep by whatever is happening. The second largest track (ʽcloudlineʼ) is a bit more dynamic, but overall, I must say that I get more excited when pressing my ear real close to the back panel of my computer — I mean, why bother listening to the faked life of microchips when you could just as well enjoy the real thing?
I wish I could produce a slightly less clueless impression here, but, in all honesty, I have nothing interesting, insightful, or pleasant to say about a single one of these tracks. As far as I am concerned, Autechre have simply returned to the bland, uninspired «craft» of their Draft 7.30 stage, and this album, huge as it is, can only be a donation to the staunchest of fans — personally, I am not going to be bowled over by the sheer hugeness of this offering. Bottomline: if Confield is all of your life and the village green beyond it, Exai will add an extra 120 minutes of happiness — otherwise, spare yourself the misery of trying to «get it»: just think, instead of one listen to Exai you could have spent the same time on five Beach Boys albums! Just this one thought is quite sufficient to solidify the thumbs down.
Check "Exai" (MP3) on Amazon