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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Autechre: Elseq 1


1) feed1; 2) c16 deep tread; 3) 13x0 step; 4) pendulu hv moda; 5) curvcaten.

Admit it, the last thing you want in your life is to be left without a new Autechre experience every few years — because what would be the meaning of that life? How else could you even begin to penetrate the deepest mysteries of the universe? One good listen to a new Autechre al­bum — isn't that pretty much the equivalent of reading the complete works of all major figures in existentialist philosophy, or at least the equivalent of a master's degree from MIT? Could modern art truly survive without being exposed to the latest and greatest in abstract electronic noise from two geniuses who keep revolutionizing the scene every few years in ways so deep and subtle, most people don't even notice it?... If that is your way of thinking, too, then to you, 2016 will be the awesomest milestone in Autechre history, as Booth and Brown assault and overload our senses with not one, not two, not three, but five albums released on the same day: 247 minutes of brand new Autechre product, enough to keep one away from Selena Gomez and Lukas Graham for at least... uh, well, for as long as it takes for the next Autechre album to come out.

Technically, Elseq 1-5 is really just one album, counting as such in typical discographies and not even analyzeable in terms of separate discs, since it was only made available as a digital down­load (CD format is way beneath these guys' level now, and a vinyl release would go against the digital fetish); but even for a guy like me, who is not used at all to detailed dissections of electronic epics and prefers condensed and superficial assessments, 247 minutes is a bit too much to sit through in one go without going mental (if I listen to it on headphones) or driving every­body around mental (if I go for the speakers). And regardless of whether we hate it or love it, we have to admit the mammoth nature of the enterprise, so I suppose it does merit several reviews after all — let alone the fact that at least some of the 1-5 volumes do have their own specific features, and counting them separately wouldn't hurt.

Elseq 1, in particular, feels like the heaviest and most aggressive volume of the lot, mainly due to the opening blast of ʽfeed1ʼ: eleven minutes of what sounds like strong electric current run through a large set of interconnected and savagely slashed cables — sparks blasting in all direc­tions, and any organic being that dares penetrate even the remote periphery of the field created by this mess getting fried instantaneously. A simple, brutal, and strangely effective track, probably their «angriest» in years and years, and, of course, barely listenable to everybody with inborn aversion to digital feedback. However, the second lengthy epic, ʽc16 deep threadʼ, seems more interesting — not least because it is driven by a very cool rhythmic pattern, one that sounds stuck somewhere in between a huge dripping faucet, two giants playing table tennis, and a railroad man driving spikes in an underwater section of the tracks. Everything else that goes on at the same time is a mix of radio static and iron-soldering noises, rather typical of Autechre, but it is really the cool percussion tone that deserves special attention.

The other three tracks are marginally more melodic: thus, behind the slightly trip-hoppy rhythms of ʽ13x0 stepʼ you will find sonic patterns that sound like alien melodies, transmitted from the distance of several thousand light years and re-converted into music to the best ability of the signal-capturing device — some frequencies lost and some implied by the brain rather than actual­ly heard; ʽpendulu hv modaʼ sounds like some Brian Eno ambient track that keeps getting interrupted through poor transmission, as you twist, bend, and re-direct the poor antenna to get to hear at least something; and only ʽcurvcatenʼ returns us fully to drum-'n'-bass territory in order to end things in the same ballpark where they'd started, only on a slightly more quiet note.

On the whole, the energy and loudness of this stuff does make it seem like an improvement on Exai at least — and I'd be the first to admit that there are a few nifty sonic ideas here, though whether they actually «work» on some metaphysical level or if my mind just clings to them be­cause of the sheer novelty factor is unclear. And let's not even get started on whether these few nifty sonic ideas deserve to be framed in 52 minutes of running time, especially since we've only just begun with the grand experience.

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