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Where Man Ends And Machine Begins


I've been a pretty big fan of Autechre since way back in the day. When I first heard Incunabula, back in 1993 or so, I thought it was one of the coolest things ever. At that point, I had no idea who the group was or what they did, but the stuff that they had put together was unlike anything I had heard to that point in electronic music. All the sounds were completely foreign and it didn't have much of a beat at all (if any), but it was some of the most beautifully put-together blips and bleeps around. I got Amber and felt just about the same about it, but when I finally picked up their Tri-Repetae++ release, I could tell that some things were definitely changing with the group. Not only were there some more severly harsh noises in their tracks, but they were taking on a decidingly more experimental edge to them and although it was still well-constructed, there were tracks that just didn't do much for me. When their Chiastic Slide disc came out on import-only, I never got around to picking it up.

Finally, when I saw their new self-titled release, I knew that things had changed with the music even before I heard the album. Like the super-minimal design work (on the outside anyway) on their Tri-Repetae++ release, their new release went even one step further. When you see the black, mini-monolith case and it's only slightly-embossed cover (just enough so you know who it's by), you'll know what I'm talking about (you can barely see it in the above picture). Everything is stripped down to the bare minimum, even the art on the CD (there is none to speak of) and the liner sheet. When I started listening to the disc, my feelings were confirmed right away. While it starts out with a few seconds of innocent enough chimey bleepage, it soon burst into a stuttering electronic track that sounds not too far off from what a cyborg might program. While their is a very quiet underlying element to the song, the rest of it is made up from completely disconnected blips and squirts of sounds that move at breakneck speed and flow into one another. It sounds like a computer trying to process far too much data than they're possible of, and little bits are slipping out and flying every which way.

Things get a little closer to what I'd expect from the group on the third track entitled "Rae." Some nice little synthey sounds are in the background while a fairly decent sized (for Autechre) shakey beat stumbles its way along. After another little minute interlude chime piece, the disc goes into a little more familiar territory with "Vose In," before a more experimental track "Caliper Remote." The tenth track "Arch Carrier" is one of those tracks that hits you square on first listen. With a nicely repetitive little progression that sounds not unlike something that came out of a classical arrangement, a beat thumps along while more dark tones and even some string-sounding synths are layed down over everything. It's freaking brilliant. After a different version of "Drane 2" (from their Peel Sessions disc), 11 minutes of silence and a short hidden track, it's over.

While it's not a bad album, it's just shows that the group is moving in another direction with their music. They've taken out some of the more musical elements and instead come back with something very machine-like and calculated. For me, it was something that was a little hard to get into on the first listen, but found myself becoming more submersed in it subsequently. Perhaps I was correct above when I mentioned that it sounded like music that a cyborg might make. Perhaps Autechre have been working their music for so long that they're not sure where the machine ends and they begin. I know that when I saw Modulations awhile back, it seems that that may have been the case. Still, at the rate things are moving, we need these guys to show us the other side before we actually hit it. Assimilate now.

Rating: 7