Way back in 1993 and 1994, Warp Records released a series of albums under the "Artificial Intelligence" series that have all nearly gone on to be classics. One of these releases was Autechre's Incunabula, and although they've done some more experimental and fairly interesting work since then, this album will always be their benchmark. It's one of those rare electronic releases on which individual tracks all manage to sound different, yet the album has an amazing cohesive quality. Not only that, but it's one of the major releases that helped to spawn the whole "IDM" (Intelligent Dance Music) movement and propel Autechre into the spotlight.
Over the course of nearly 78 minutes, Sean Booth and Rob Brown take you to a world where machines rule, but instead of sounding harsh or industrial (except slightly for a couple moments), they draw you in even more with their delicate and overlapping sounds. It's a highly melodic trip through a warm bubblebath of electronic textures that will make you feel like assimilation with machines maybe isn't such a bad deal after all.
If you've seen the movie Pi, (and especially if you own the soundtrack), you've already heard the first song on this album entitled "Kalpol Intro." It's a moody, gurgling track that provides the perfect, short beginning that helps tickle your inner ear and lead you along and into the rest of the disc. Mixing seemlessly into the next track (as every song on the album does), the group gets things moving a little more with the track "Bike." After a shimmering opening part, it moves right along with a shuffling little beat and some seriously deep backend bass.
Basically, you're not going to go wrong with this disc if you like electronic music that isn't the run-of-the-mill dancefloor bilk. Whether the group is cranking out the awesome "Basscadet" (probably the most upbeat song on the album with a muffled kick drum and all kinds of blips and squeaks) or the slowly-progressing epic of "Windwind," nearly every single moment on this disc is interesting and changing. Although some of the noises used on the album sound a little dated, the arrangements of the actual songs themselves are timeless and the disc flows from beginning to end without nary a hitch.
It's moody, shimmering, and beautiful and quite possibly one of the best intelligent electronic music albums ever made. If you've heard newer material by Autechre and it's a little too cut up for you, don't write them off. Instead, head for this album and listen to it several times over. Play it loud on a good stereo or headphones and hear the subtle layers and textures. If I had to choose only 5 electronic albums to take to an island with me, this would be one of them.