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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Autechre: Exai


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" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Exai" (MP3) on Amazon

7 comments:

  1. While I largely agree with your assessment, I think that you should listen to "irlite (get 0)" again. The dark, "imposing" atmosphere is just like anything else on the album, but the song itself is surprisingly varied and dynamic, and it easily stands out from the rest for me.

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  2. T ess xi. Oh wow.

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  3. runrepik? Really? Christ, these song titles make me PHYSICALLY sick.

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    1. You make me physically sick

      runrepik is a nice track title

      Delete
  4. George I'm glad to see you've tried Exai, I'm sure someone may come along and argue against your statement regarding "one listen of Exai = five Beach Boys albums", you know, something along the lines of "it's completely different music for different occasions, moods etc". But I don't buy that argument, it seems as weak a statement as "it's just your opinion".

    I've commented at length on Exai on my own blog at http://eschaton-omega.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/exai-not-exciting-at-all.html

    I'll simply say that I fully agree. I felt on FIRST listen that this was a retread to their pre-Oversteps (post-EP7) material, with much random MAX/MSP nonsense going on, the usual stabs, blips, plops, glitches and such that they became well known for.

    There is almost never any "power" to this music. No rocking out, no kicking of arse, forgive my simplistic terms but I don't feel anything listening to this album except the same irritation that built up listening to Draft, Confield and the like.

    If they had included more "harder" pieces like SPL9 or the industrial battering ram of Confield's bonus track, it might have been more engaging. But no, Exai is full of the same old barely-melodic randomness of AE-by-numbers-on-autopilot that will fool some people into thinking it's a higher art form, when Exai - much like Confield, Draft, and Untilted - is ultimately quite a vacuous experience.

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    1. have u ever considered that some people like the music without thinking it's some higher art form?

      more=better in my opinion, much rather have 20 ae tracks than 10.

      ''But no, Exai is full of the same old barely-melodic randomness of AE-by-numbers-on-autopilot that will fool some people into thinking it's a higher art form, when Exai - much like Confield, Draft, and Untilted - is ultimately quite a vacuous experience''

      opinions

      why the fuck do you take it so seriously

      Delete
  5. So, any plans to review their latest, uh, quintuple album?

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