AUTECHRE: ELSEQ 4 (2016)
1) acdwn2; 2) foldfree casual; 3) latentcall; 4) artov chain; 5) 7th slip.
After two highly disappointing volumes, it would be near impossible for the next one to continue the same trend — and indeed, we have a return to shorter tracks, more dynamic flows, and less arrogant minimalism here. I think that this one is the archetypal «glitch» entry in the series, since most of the tracks are dominated by various types of glitching... but I'd rather take endless glitching over 20-minute long crackle-and-hum sequences anyway.
Only one of these numbers, ʽfoldfree casualʼ, runs on softer fuel, largely free of harsh percussion (except for one brief section in the middle) and dependent on «electronic church music» sustained synth textures in the background, arguably as close as Autechre are willing to come to conventional understanding of «beauty» in this entire project. But it lies between ʽacdwn2ʼ and ʽlatentcallʼ, both of which thrive on crazyass percussion loops and glitches a-plenty, and also allow for some build-up elements (which essentially means gradually adding extra synth overdubs in the background, as if we were slowly zooming out into space). I cannot say that anything here surprises or astounds me in any way, but at least the tracks are structured like glitchy mini-suites, with introductions, themes, bridges, and codas, rather than a single musical idea stretched out to 20 minutes because we're the first artists who ever had the artistic thought of stretching a single musical idea out to 20 minutes (not really).
The last two tracks are the most technically unlistenable ones, but they are also mercifully short: ʽartov chainʼ briefly returns you to the «whistling down the wire» sonic patterns of the previous record, and ʽ7th slipʼ is the ultimate in tape manipulation (sounds like somebody recorded something, sped it up ten times, then slowed it down fifty times, then put it on vinyl, played it with shaky hands, and there you go — a direct line to God for six and a half minutes). That last track sure is a fresh sonic experience for me, but whether this should be cause for celebration remains a big question. But at least you cannot accuse them of being boring.
Even with all the «energy» here, though, it is still hard to get rid of the feeling that, somehow, there is neither any true joy of creativity behind these tracks, nor any particular meaning — it's just one of those many «woke up with a lazy desire to engage in some glitching» days. It used to be so that this music, to me, brought on images of hardworking nanites running about their business in an electronic nano-anthill; the nanites of ʽacdwn2ʼ and ʽlatentcallʼ, however, seem rather tired of life and are continuing to run about their business just because they have nothing else to do — had they had a choice, they'd much rather sit by the fireplace and read Moby Dick, but no, they are still being put to work by relentless slavedrivers. Viewed in that light, Elseq 4 might even be hilarious — Dad-Electronica! — but to do that, you'd need to listen to all of Autechre in chronological order again, and the human life span cannot come to terms with that.