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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Autechre: Elseq 3


1) eastre; 2) TBM2; 3) mesh cinereaL.

I think this one's the longest of them all, even though it also only has three tracks. For the third installation in the series, I guess we're kind of going ambient — except for the second and shor­test track, whose function is to function as Mr. Rhythm, briefly entertaining you in between Mr. Atmosphere and Mr. Chaos. That said, I am not quite in the clear as to why Mr. Rhythm had to sample the «Boom-Boom-Thwack!» pattern from ʽWe Will Rock Youʼ, and why the idea of lis­tening to seven minutes of boom-boom-thwack (everything else comes in the form of nearly inaudible rhythm tracks and occasional fuse bursts) should be realized in the «breathing space» between two sonic mega-monsters.

The first of which basically just sounds like the wind howling in naked electric wires (for 22 minutes) — there's about three chords there, endlessly repeated over a sustained hum, and while I'm all for slowing down and taking your time to enjoy nuances in this madly rushing world of ours, this seems to be taking the idea too far. At least when Brian Eno does these never-changing soundscapes, they can be used for background accompaniment because they're pretty; using this track for background accompaniment is impossible unless you also happen to casually drink castor oil and eat skunk droppings for breakfast, and make no distinction whatsoever between Van Der Graaf Generator and Britney Spears, because they're all «pop slop» to you.

The third track is at least nicely chaotic: this is «Pong meets Art Rock», as the geometric-soun­ding patterns are rendered less percussive and more melodic. Again, though, the problem is that at no point (other than a weird fade-out and a quick build-up back to basics in the middle) does the track offer any development, at least not the kind that could be observed by the naked ear over a couple of casual listens. Worse still, even a short, economic sample of ʽmesh cinereaLʼ triggers no image in my head — I can't even say that this is a decent industrial soundscape, because it does not have the grimey grittiness, the merciless grind that goes along with good industrial. It's just the sound of several electric currents interacting with each other. Hello, I'm Current #1, nice to meet you. Hi, I'm Current #2, let's get married and have a short circuit. That's the story of our lives in a nutshell, and we're going to be telling it to you for 25 minutes.

Of course, we should be reminded that these three tracks are not standalone entities — but then again, what kind of superman would want to listen to all five Elseq volumes in a row? That's even more of a challenge than trying to read all of Ulysses in one day. The only reason why these tracks are so lengthy is that they really want you to pay attention — to understand how serious these sonic textures are, because if they weren't serious, what kind of moron would the artist have to be to stretch them out for so long? If it's big, it's important. And if it's important, it's your fault and nobody else's if you refuse to see that importance. So prepare yourself to open your mind to the transcendental artistic significance of the feedback hum of the naked electric cord, and after ten consecutive listens you will have outgrown the proletarian concept of melody and ready to face the world of music from a completely alien perspective. Or — who knows — maybe God-like perspective?..


  1. I'm pretty certain that this is the Autechre equivalent of self-parody. Even they can't ever sound like a fake distant copy of themselves, no that would be precisely what would happen to any other band, but with Ae it's very much a case of "the form is there but the function is no longer".

  2. "but then again, what kind of superman would want to listen to all five Elseq volumes in a row?"
    ... and then you think for a moment and realise that the full elseq 1-5 lasts about as long as a complete execution of each of the last 3 operas from Wagner's Ring Cycle. Frankly, to make such a big fuss about the length of this album is patently ridiculous, and if anything, this release is a good slap in the face of those who keep saying that no one wants to listen to albums anymore.