AUTECHRE: ELSEQ 5 (2016)
1) pendulu casual; 2) spTh; 3) spaces how V; 4) freulaeux; 5) oneum.
I wish I could say that Autechre have saved the best for last, but this sort of implies that I have an idea of what is best for Autechre, and I do not. I am, however, almost ready to say that they saved the most diverse bunch of tracks for us — on this fifth volume, there is no single overriding theme, rather a little bit of everything, in a final recapitulation of all the sides of their musical philosophy that matter. Or pretend to matter.
So, the first track is more wind whistling down the naked electric wire, along with some more wind fluttering in the electronic sails of a ship that takes nine minutes to get nowhere in particular, with each of the nine minutes completely equivalent to any other one. Then, ʽspThʼ kicks in with some rhythm, and the sonic snaps and blasts take on a slightly more melodic quality, if you can take «resonance», «reverberation», and «echo» as synonyms for «melody», that is. ʽSpaces how Vʼ, accidentally true to a part of its title, does throw you out in space, with an astral perspective represented by the usual means (canvas synth hum + quasi-randomized bleeps and beeps of passing unidentified flying objects). ʽFreulauexʼ is the liveliest track of them all, with a deconstructed techno rhythm that still remains marginally danceable, while in the background somebody seems to be conducting research on dynamite at a distance of about fifty miles away.
Finally, ʽoneumʼ could be called the «grand finale» — not only of the fifth volume, but of the entire project in general, as it is the most sonically fleshed out, loud, grand, and ominous track of them all, with a high-pitched, disturbing, but solemn electronic pattern running uninterrupted in the background and auxiliary broken up mini-patterns quickly rising to the surface and extinguishing themselves in the foreground. Does this make it sound grand? It's not that grand, really. It's the kind of track that they could probably knock off in a couple of hours these days, given their overall expertise and stuff. But it has a familiar emotional ring, unlike so many of these Elseq sequences that have no emotional ring whatsoever.
All of which leads us to the final question — so was this project really worth it? Five CDs worth of new material, was this some sort of big, ambitious, rejuvenating musical statement to shatter the bounds and coils of modern electronica? Well, don't take my words at face value, given that my electronic expertise still remains limited, but I dare say bull. There are some moments on this mammoth (most of them contained on the promising, but disappointing first volume) that could rank up there with Autechre's best, but on the whole, this is simply the hugest demonstration that Confield brought the duo to a dead end — as off-putting and puzzling as that release was, not a single Autechre album since that time has truly built up on its reputation and promise, and this is just the latest and greatest in a series of attempts to jump over their own heads. A futile enterprise, that, considering that they lost their heads with Confield. At least in 2001, this was exciting. In 2016, for the most part, this is boring — and bland. They are not pushing any boundaries forward; they are still working within a set formula, except we are still sometimes trapped by the illusion that there's some sort of revolution going on when there isn't. Of course, if you are one of the few for whom listening to Confield is as normal and ordinary a practice as to others it is listening to Mozart, or the Beatles, or even Miley Cyrus, that gives you an entirely different perspective; but that's a highly specialized thing, and I hate getting into that sort of nuances. I just hope they won't take five more years and come out with a 20-volume album — if this «more Autechre is better Autechre» shit ain't stopping any time soon, I'm definitely not going to bother.