Autechre and The Myth of Difficult Music (TM)

When people say “album xyz is difficult” what they most likely mean is that album xyz is annoying or grating or otherwise “not fun.” Sometimes this is a subtle way of telling someone that they’re not actually going to like a certain band, avoiding the reflexive combat instinct some folk display when someone tells them “you will not enjoy this.” That reaction probably stems from an underlying sense that when someone says “you will not enjoy this,” what they’re really saying is “you are too stupid and uncultured to enjoy this.”

While that attitude is embarrassingly foolish – you are not made better or worse by the music you like any more than the core of your being is actually touched by the clothes you wear – it is also driven by elitism’s deformed twin, anti-intellectualism. After all, if something isn’t immediately understood, it’s obviously being difficult on purpose, right? Someone can’t possibly follow their heart to a weird conclusion of tiny, private sounds or long stretches of feedback or 12-tone plonk. It must be meant to offend, to annoy, or to otherwise throw a curveball at the terminally straightforward.

Of course, if that is what they’re actually doing – if the intent is really just to annoy – all that can be invoked is a hearty and heartfelt “so what?” But where’s the fun in that?

Everywhere.

These misguided people are, by and large, assholes. It’s not their fault, perhaps, but they’re assholes nonetheless. However, like any good comic book character, they have a nemesis; a contingent that genuinely namechecks these works as a means of saying “I am super cool and smart and junk.” So like a gross Russian porno, asshole meets asshole and sparks fly in the tribal circle jerk between the forces of HOW DARE YOU PUT ON AIRS and LOOK HOW SMART I AM YOU REDNECK.

You can also see the evolution of this particular “dialogue” at work in the various Pitchfork reviews of the Autechre catalogue over the past decade or so. My snarky encapsulation usually goes something like “They seem bored…old record was better…6.8.” Pitchfork generally wants to have a good time, and since “difficult” really means “not fun,” can you blame them? Their review of Quarstice is rather evenhanded and makes some good points, but this is outlier data in their bell curve of jerkoffitude.

Back to the myth of “difficulty.” And back to Autechre, whose work so dominated a genre that they ran headlong into crazy bananas town while the genre they shaped melted into a diffuse, multi-layered influence on everything from rap to country & western. (While I certainly fabricated that last bit, I would not be surprised if it were true.)

We shall start from the beginning with two simple rules:

1) The truth shall be told.

2) Remember that in this case you can indeed judge these books by their covers.

At the very least, we can move away from “difficult” and go back to the intellectual honesty of “this sucks.”

IN THE BEGINNING

There was Inculnabula. It is an artifact of a simpler time, when the whole “intelligent” dance music thing was just getting started. Now, the effect is blunted. It’s mostly boring and repetitive. While for some this is just another way of saying “mid-90s IDM” I can point to our cover rule; it’s a heady throwback to the early days of the new futurism, a shiny robotic landscape where everything is overlaid with a vaguely militaristic HUD. What are they taking aim at? Fucked if I know. Too much goddamn Bladerunner in one ear and techno-optimism in the other.

The quaint notions of the middle part of the 1990s are illustrated in tracks like Basscadet, but you do hear hints of the future in the highly repetitive, vaguely electro-infused drum machine workouts. If you’re working backwards through Autechre‘s body of work, I’d say it’s fine to make one final stop here, perhaps right before seeking out an .mp3 copy of the early 12″ version of Cavity Job. But this is not the place to start.

If you want to hear the oldies, this is where you start. Nothing will blow your mind, but it’s got “Foil” and “Montreal” on there, the keys to a simpler time when Autechre used words for track titles instead of Fibonnaci Sequences. Rough and repetitive, so much so that the background textures are really more of a draw. They’re warm, fuzzy and slightly off, but comforting nonetheless.

The cover, again, tells you everything you need to know about the album in one simple word. It’s almost amazing how useful they are in determining what the score actually is.

Now, I began as a lowly American college student with Tri Repetae++, which collected an album with a second CD featuring two previous EPs; their most “famous” song, “Second Bad Vilbel” comes from this particular era. It was so thunderous, so absolutely different than anything I’d heard, that it changed the way I dealt with the very concept of electronic music. I know that sounds pretty dumb now but I think most of us have had this kind of experience and can relate. It’s why people end up feeling nostalgic as they grow older, attempting to reconnect to a moment in their past where there was a unification of the desires of the mind, heart and body.

“VLetrmx21” will always conjur up a sadness that no lyrical song, no rock song, no anything could possibly match.

Anyway, I think this album holds up across the cruel wastes of time; it is mechanical and “cold” in a way that seems hopelessly warm and quaint nowadays. Even the cover is a nice blend of Army Olive Green and Avacado Green, not so much cold and lifeless as a bit blank; it would make a nice accent for the woodwork in your kitchen.

THINGS ARE STARTING TO GET SERIOUS

Chiastic Slide is about as emo as Autechre ever got, not in the Fugazi sense but in the bad makeup modern usage sense of the term. Anthemic, even.

For example, “Hub” has this delightfully off-beat thudding, like a robot climbing stairs only to fall back down and repeat the process because robots aren’t very bright. The textures in the background, however, dance about like an old man playing flute in a graveyard in the middle of the night; you can barely make out what’s being played, but the emotional tenor is the same.

Build up, break down, collapse. Even the beatless tracks, like “Pule,” follow this format, replacing clicks and whirrrrrs with a slappy xylophone-like melody that bleeds into a broken-hearted synth drone before falling apart entirely. Their obvious love of early electro is most apparent on album closer “Nuane,” where the broken-beat breakdancing intro leads us into a marching band dotted with those raw electronic horns Autechre keeps slipping into their work so we’ll know where all the dramatic bits are. Everything sounds like complete chaos, but it’s impossible not to bop in time, especially as things fall apart – again – into an almost standard hip hop beat, though one made out of the sounds of incomplete artificial intelligences.

Over a decade later, I still listen to Chiastic Slide quite regularly.

“IT SOUNDS LIKE SOMEONE MOVING FURNITURE”

“Sickly sweet” is an apt phonetic pronunciation of this EP, a bridge between Chiastic Slide and LP5, and the beginning of a stylistic swing towards from a needling refinement of their sound into the sort of computery monster blur that dominates today. Heavy maths and all that.

But it’s more the palette they draw from than the way they put it together. Chiclisuite has a lot of the clicky slapping heard on later works, but it has that feel of a dozen hand drummers who practice together incessantly. The overly-punchy sound of that era is getting its first public appearance on Chiclisuite, and the right mixture of warm and cold isn’t fully corrected until 2001’s Confield. The highs are sometimes brutal, as with the percussive click and rhythmic whine in “Characi”. A good point of comparison would be “Ventolin,” but there’s no knowing smile. But “Krib” is nice as hell with it’s slow R&B swing and “rolling coin” hat/snare, and that dumps right into “Tilapia,” the sound closest to their live sets from late 90s. Gescom electro bass; slow bass drum counting off the bars in groups of four; syrup strings; slappy breakdown followed by a choppy synth; etc. But it’s so fucking precise!

Like they took tweezers to the damn thing.

And so a junction approaches. If you don’t admire precision, things are about to get difficult. As in “rough on you”. If you do admire precision, it will make your brain feel all sorts of wonderful. If you’re neither and/or nor, then this dichotomy has been wasted.

We begin our fade into puremathland, that wonderful place where everything sounds like algebra having a dance party for all the wrong reasons. “Boom boom boom fizzle fizzle nurr nurr” and whatnot inside the hard plastic grey case of LP5; the robot buttfucking jamboree so hot it doesn’t even need a real name.

This is where Autechre comes closest to applying the Dewey Decimal system to their track naming scheme. “Acroyear2” or “Rae” or “Fold4, Wrap5” or “Arch Carrier.” While that last one doesn’t quite invoke dusty and pragmatic progressives so much as the giant robot cartoon genre, it doesn’t exactly tell you a whole lot either.

But the weird thing is this album is filled with jazz funk barnburners. From opener to closer it’s “boom boom boom fizzle fizzle nurr nurrrrrr” and while they’re still working out some of the “fizzle fizzle” issues, the funky lead synth stuff really is jazzy. Things fold out into a syrupy weirdness between subsequent burnings of the barn, but only to give the listener a break. We’re not quite into electro-gooseberry flavor country just yet; instead we’re at the point where inventing new genre names is just about the only business we have left. It’s getting a bit hard to keep up with this new vocabulary. The bass drum on “777” sounds like a soft mellon being thrown at a trampoline. That’s exactly what it sounds like, and the track melts in around while it keeps time. It ends with a sludgy decline that quickly tears apart into a flutter; flutter gives way to “Rae,” the junior prom slow dance track of the album. The beat slows and breaks apart right into the part where you got stood up.

Wikipedia says this album is “stripped-down” but Wikipedia is ridiculously wrong.

Remember the album cover rule? Ok, look at this thing. It was designed on a machine, obviously. It cannot state its intentions more clearly.

Everything on here feels like a splintered, fractal moment captured by the cover art of EP7. (Note: not even close to being an actual fractal.) We see a lot more playing with smearing textures together, resulting in great big ripping sounds, like YHWH was pulling the neatest sounding dough apart with His hands. There’s a great example of this with “Left Blank,” where this mighty background roar insistently pushes its way into the foreground while the beat lurches and twitters around it before being subsumed. Even the “barnburners” – which now must be scare-quoted because there’s not necessarily a whole lot left to dance to – get shoved around by this seemingly newfound love of textures. “Nelton Sentinel” actually melts!

Only the album closer “Pir” manages to really keep things together, hearkening back to the simple days when computers loved robots and had tiny calculator babies. A saccarine sweet melody playing quite nicely with understated-but-grindy beats stuttering all around it.

THIS IS A THING

Yet another major stylistic shift comes with 2001’s Confield, which could not be more different from the last album proper, LP5. Retaining the thick textures of EP7, there’s a blurry, detuned haze all over Confield. There are no barnburners here, because there’s nothing remotely human left. People who thought Tri Repetae was “cold” and “inhuman” must simply have given up at this point.

Personally, I love the everloving shit out of this album. I love the fact that everything is smeared; that “Parhelic Triangle” sounds like a rock song of sorts, with a singing chorus and progressively stuttery smush of percussion meshing perfectly together and falling apart perfectly together as well; that album opener “VI Scoise Poise” is a beautiful nod to their previous excursions into ambient soup; that “Uviol” is so gently rough but “Lentic Catachresis” is uncompromising, sloppy and brutal; that “parhelic” catachresis AND Lentic are all real terms.

Confield‘s continued abandonment (or “subversion” if you insist on being ridiculous) of the beat is a theme we shall revisit shortly.

Gantz Graf has an amazing video.

It makes you wonder what the forever doomed collaboration with Coil could have possibly done. Perhaps tamed the brutal edges of the millions of tiny crystalline shards tearing at your ears? The title track segues into “Dial,” one of those stepladder songs from their live sets from this decade; where the beat is a regular almost-march dotted by synth scales that are more jitter than note. You can feel them, but you can’t hear them. A bit upsetting.

With “Cap IV” we get a stab at pretty; actual voices smudged in the distance while a player piano dances and the beat tries so damn hard just to keep up. By the time the click and thump drums take the lead you can almost convince yourself that Jhon Balance is in the back somewhere, softly moaning and soaked in sweat; when the melody actually comes in you feel like someone’s just thrown you a rope a mere instant before the sharks show up to eat you.

As far as titles go, Draft 7.30 is worthless – it’s almost taunting in its obscurity. But the cover? Again, we must consider my iron-clad rule about Autechre covers; it looks like a complete mess, but carries some hints of the past, those older releases with graph paper mistakes and fake landscapes.

To be glib about it, Draft 7.30 is their prog-rock drummer concept album. Tired of being pushed back into the shadows and picking up second-rank venereal diseases from second rank groupies, the drummer finally shoves back and says “I too can be a rock star.”

Is the drummer a rock star here? No. The drummer is having trouble being funky when the beat is slow and having a whole lot of trouble being anything other than a complete mess when things get quick. Again, we see textures come to the rescue; “61e.CR” breaks from it’s heavy-handed broken-beat loop into something resembling a melodic hook, while the drummer gets briefly shoved into the background on tracks like “Tapr” and throwback track “Reniform Puls.” He even shows up to bring both noise and funk near the end of the album, with “V-Proc” being perhaps the most legitimately “funky” thing these guys have ever made.

Overall, the album is uneven. It’s very, very interesting – especially at high volume, where the little flourishes can be clearly heard – but it’s sloppy as well and their weakest release this decade.

An important point of order: Untilted is not untitled. I made this mistake for almost two months before being corrected by a friend. Regardless, most of the reviews of Untilted were functionally useless, perhaps in part due to laziness on the part of writers. A bigger issue is how to describe something that’s so far off the map of experiences within the electronic music arena without lapsing into lazy phrasing like “abstract.” Because here’s the deal – it’s not abstract. It’s wacky, maybe, and certainly jumps around; there are moments of abrasive violence not heard in any previous recording. But abstract? Even the rough opener of “LCC,” a drum machine workout where a rolling bass drum gets a nearly Reggaeton snare slapped across its bow, isn’t abstract. And hell, a few minutes later a plonky synth and a regular beat start an orderly march alongside a deep bass and some of those stunning horns Autechre throws in now and then. There’s a beginning and an end, though it’s certainly light on the middle. Toss on “Fermium” and see if you still find it to be “abstract,” as it’s the most straightforward track on Untilted.

I can sympathize with reviewers who found the album to be unenjoyable; my first impression was that they’d decided the rabbit hole where they hid from genre conventions wasn’t deep enough and brought in a backhoe instead. It’s a continuation from the space explored on Draft 7.30.

But subsequent listenings have convinced me that my initial impression was wrong, and that their intense and overwhelming attention to detail is why they’re still relevant after all these years. Far from being pointlessly abstract or emotionless, there’s simply a layer of abrasion that must be dealt with. Parts of Untilted are a nervous wreck – “Ipacial Section” starts with a jittery slap of beats and beeps before a regular snare bursts forth from what sounds to be an incredibly deep bathtub. The central rhythmic theme is repeated while other elements come flying in and out, all of which are very tense and very exciting. The sole test of electronic music should not be whether or not someone can dance to it or what time signature it is; rather it is the series of questions of any kind of music must answer- does it show you something? Does it take you places? Does it have a reason for being beyond pique?

Wait…what is this?

A pretty song?

A pretty song to open an Autechre album?

Why yes it is!

“Altibzz” is an organ-ish pluck ‘n drone that’s got a point, counterpoint and some other stuff stuck in there as well. In and out, most of the tracks on Quaristice are well under three minutes, all of which compress their past work into new, shortened forms. “Theswere” invokes the days of Chiastic Slide‘s melody-and-beat battles, but leaves out the beat; “WNSN” has an EP7 smudge but climbs out of the sludge pit with a straightforward rhythm; “Tankakern” carries a hint of the barnburner past but submerges it in a low-intensity bass drone; “paralel Suns” is, of all things, a dark ambient excursion, while “chenc9” is nearly drum n’ bass.

If you’ve dropped out of the Autechre game for a while (I imagine this game to be those multi-level “3D chess” sets from the 1970s) This would be an interesting place to drop back in. If you don’t like a track, hit the “next” button on your favorite music-stealing service and try another one.

There’s something here for everybody.

www.warprecords.com/artists/index.php?artist=ae

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39 Comments

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39 responses to “Autechre and The Myth of Difficult Music (TM)

  1. Hey, I had this post come up in my “tag surfer” and I just thought I’d let you know I think it’s excellent. Must’ve taken a while to put everything together!

  2. thanks! it took so long i frickin’ forgot to include envane!

    short version:
    envane is what would happen if hip hop wasn’t so fucking self absorbed and/or was really into math. but not sacred math where you get to call women “earths” and stuff, though that has its merits. the last track is very sad, almost plaintive, nearly human.

  3. great stuff… some of the reasons i love the interweb is stumbling onto things like this…

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  5. Tri Repetae was the first Autechre album I bought and I thought it was amazing. I’d heard nothing else quite like it – abstract, evocative, self-confident in its machine origin. I loaned it to a girl at university that I fancied at the time, thinking I would look really cool and we might have something profound in common. I think she liked it too but she actually fancied a friend of mine instead. I still have the original cassette. Amazing what music conjures up.

  6. Thanks for the post.. Will be checking out some of the other albums I haven’t heard yet. Great style – Like your imaginative descriptions especially the bass drum which “sounds like a soft mellon being thrown at a trampoline”. That’s the great thing about Autechre – prickles the imagination.

  7. glad you enjoyed it.

    olaf: i’m a little slow – a bit too web 1.0, as it were – but if i read your page correctly you guys play dj sets in second life?

  8. redatm

    I am jealous of your great writing. You make a lot of great points about the ultimate truth of experimental music, and then dive into a downright imposing discography very honestly.

    Chiastic Slide is definitely my favorite.

  9. les cuistots du bal

    interesting point(s).

    i do believe in the concept of “difficult” music. In that getting into a certain musical paradigm that might require a more attentive and
    active type of listening can permit you to authentically appreciate
    tunes that untrained ears might not digest. We can compare that to songs
    that you appreciate only after a few hearings.
    Still I agree that understating “you are to aurally unfit to appreciate this music” with the “difficult tag sucks”. A more constructive way to process would be to say something like: “let me educate you, let me be your guide, I’ll show you better, poor poor creature.”

    this being said, I always considered Autechre as accessible experimental
    music rather then difficult IDM(?) and I quite liked Quaristice and I would kill to have a look at some of their patches.

  10. i’m a bit less academic than that – music speaks to the soul first, then the brain, then the feet. or sometimes it talks to the soul through the feet, which are connected to the heart. and since any ensoulment process is really a brain chemical process, and our feet are controlled by our brains, all music is inherently cerebral. even stupid NYC SPEEEEEEEEEEDCOREEEEEEEE type stuff.

    i think upon continued listening people learn all sorts of things about their favorite music, or even their least favorite music (as any parent of children can probably tell you). they may not communicate it as i would because i’m excessively verbal and cerebral when it comes to music, and a bit obsessive to boot. but it is impossible to compare the sophistication or crudeness of someone’s musical tastes to my own, as my soul is not their feet.

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  12. fletchymole

    Ok fair enough chap, that beats my write-up hands down. And I also have been addicted to Chiastic Slide since buying it…. I am awaiting my copy of Untitled in the post which slightly fearful anticipation!

  13. i like untilted quite a bit and i’d be curious to hear what your impressions are after making the jump from chiastic slide, which is still probably their pinnacle in terms of songwriting. (or “songwriting” if you like)

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  15. SillyLynx

    If you’re searching for melodically easy going and normal rhythm “electronic” music, auhtor of this text, go with Owl City.
    Every now and then I see asshole talking about something he has no connection with and this is no exception.

    Rot in hell.

    • Tomato

      I know I’m late replying SillyLynx, but I couldn’t have said it better myself, as a fellow long-term fan of Autechre myself (they’re my favourite band) you’re absolutely right, it’s clear this guy doesn’t really know what he’s talking about (don’t mean to be offensive author but at least in the first few paragraphs it’s pretty obvious), truth is they are a very difficult band, there’s nothing instantly accessible about them but that’s part of what makes them great, right? I must say to the author, when I say “difficult” however, I don’t mean it (and I don’t suspect any other Autechre fans mean it) in the “asshole” way he says, I mean as a way of saying “you may like them but if not at first, give them some time and you’ll love them, trust me they’re brilliant :)”. It took me at least a year before I finally ‘got’ they’re last album and I’m glad I stuck with it because, like all their albums, you realise how great they are after repeated listens. He’s not the first person to say stuff like this I must say. I always hear people like him saying fans of bands like Autechre are “assholes” (or some other crap) and I’d say this isn’t because they’re too “stupid” to appreciate Autechre’s music (or any other band), it’s more because they can’t be arsed to actually sit down and listen to their music properly, therefore just slag it off as ‘noise’ and as a result can’t understand the real reason why we say they are difficult. Saying “difficult” isn’t the same as saying that they’re music “sucks”, it means that they’re inaccessible, but that’s not anything negative either, really it just means you need to take time to actually appreciate they’re music because it isn’t super accessible or ‘dumbed down’ as some would say (I know that will probably sound like a bit of an arsehole thing to say to author’s ears, but I couldn’t think of any other way of putting it, as it were). To be honest mate, I agreed with everything you said, I’d say to the author the reason they are described as ‘abstract’ and ‘difficult’ is because they are exactly those things, he can’t run away from it and shouldn’t talk about things he has no connection to, it only makes them look bad in my opinion.

      • Tomato

        Actually scrap that reply I made above, it sounds way to aggressive, something I don’t want, besides xaml pretty much sums up what I’d say to the author. I’d say to the author the reason I got so annoyed and said what I said was because he’s implying that Autechre fans are elitist (that’s what I gathered anyway) which isn’t true, the reason we get a bit snobby sometimes or cross is because we are (or at least I am) sick of pop music or super accessible music fans slagging of Autechre by saying things like “how can you guys like this garage, where’s all the hooks? Where’s all the super upbeat lyrics” or stuff to that effect when really they can’t be fucked (excuse the language) to actually sit down and listen to them properly, if they did they might appreciate them.

      • hello!

        so while I’m certainly grateful that an 8 year old essay is still being read, i’d probably only approach the initial framing of my essay different, rather than it’s message.

        i still think the term “difficult” is dumb, even though i like some obtuse stuff. thankfully i think the following near-decade removed it from most of the critical lexicon.

        my essay is about autechre, but it’s also about rhetoric. and really, it’s about how we talk about love.

        people are really bad at talking about love, about separating themselves from those things they love enough to see from someone else’s pov. the internet has not improved matters too much across the board.

        i love autechre’s work. i really do. i didn’t find exai as exciting as oversteps, but i don’t require them to conform to my tastes. but when i talk about music, i talk about feeling and mood and tone. and mature love doesn’t demand obedience or mirroring in the moods of others; a mature, thoughtful love understands that it is subjective, individual, and fleeting.

        these days, far away from a major city, i mostly talk about music with people who have no idea what i’m talking about. and so i’ve learned to talk about love.

        On Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 5:11 PM, here there be rodents wrote:

        >

      • Tomato

        Just noticed a typo, meant to say ‘too aggressive’ in the second comment.

        P.s. I’m typing this on my phone so apologies for any grammar mistakes, it often messes up my writing.

  16. duly noted, sir! can you give me directions?

    • I am not sure why this person was so hostile, whether it was because they were offended by the elitism which was criticised or whether it was an unacceptable burst of chauvinism.

      There are however things which you did not consider in your article above and which you even denied in one of your subsequent comments.

      “After all, if something isn’t immediately understood, it’s obviously being difficult on purpose, right?”

      Not necessarily, but that was to be expected since your question was rhetoric. There is however a challenge with content which is difficult, regardless of whether it is difficult on purpose or not. And this is not at all a myth. Not everyone might want to and perhaps not everyone could find liking for complex and abstract content. Regardless of whether they would not want or would not be able to, after at least trying it, it would be something which would need to be respected, as long as their preferences are otherwise balanced. But the focus should not solely reside on those who do not like it, but on those who like it, too. If someone finds liking for complex and abstract content, the question would be why.

      “You are not made better or worse by the music you like any more than the core of your being is actually touched by the clothes you wear.”

      I agree that clothes are not a good indicator for personality, which is brought to perverse levels by fashion, and they should not be used as an indicator for status, because status is not relevant without considering personality, even tough clothes might give a little hint about taste, if struggles with weight and economical aspects do not get in the way. All these aspects, which are required in order to maintain respect, seem to be left out in hush evaluations of someone based on their clothes, which is why it should be avoided. It is different with music and movies, as they directly interact with the rational and emotional regions of our minds and it allows to at least ask certain questions. The question is why they are listening to it. If someone was regularly listening to cold and abrasive music because they cherish destructive and cruel aspects about it, I would claim that this would be reflected in their personality. Negatively, not in a positive way. This could be electronic music, “Nine Inch Nails”, chauvinistic music such as “Kanye West” or even content other than music like “arthouse” movies or questionable movies by “von Trier”, I would not want to be in a relationship with such a person.

  17. I gotta disagree with you in one big way — Draft 7.30 is my favorite Autechre album. I love everything after & including Chiastic Slide (not crazy about Oversteps yet, but I just need to take a few night drives with it like I did with Quaristice), but man, I think they really hit a new plateau with Draft 7.30.

    …What the fuck is SillyLynx talking about?

    Anyway, I’m embarrassed to admit that I though it was “Untitled” until I read this. And I bought that album on the day it came out.

  18. jim

    Great post.
    On the subject of “difficult”, I used the word “challenging” as I handed my son a couple Einstürzende Neubauten albums the other night.
    Go Fibonacci.

  19. You make some good points here. I definitely fall in the asshole category, but here is how I look at this.

    If I were to have most people listen to Autechre they would immediately say “”how can you listen to this?”. The thing is, I know exactly what they are talking about. I was them at one point to a certain degree. It takes time to develop a taste in music that is not immediately accessible.

    But then look what they are listening to, it’s not that they don’t like Autechre, but that they don’t like Jazz, Classical, Ambient, or any other type of music that is not pushed by mainstream radio.

    “Who sings this song?” Oh my god you don’t know this song, this is Journey! How do you not know Journey! In the same vein is this concept, the idea that someone could not know music that was forced down the throat of the entire country, because I actually go seek out music and don’t listen to what I am told to listen to by pop culture.

    In my mind, liking pop radio is the same think as only eating fast food and not understand how someone could drink wine or eat osso bucco.

    It doesn’t come straight from elitism, it comes from knowing how others got to the point they are at, the path of least resistance.

    • “In my mind, liking pop radio is the same think as only eating fast food and not understand how someone could drink wine or eat osso bucco.”

      Your argument falls flat since a well-made, healthy sandwich or salad with great ingredients and taste would be regarded as fast food, as food which is prepared fast, all the same.

  20. therobc

    Just stumbled on this when searching for other information about AE and I really enjoyed your analysis. I’d be interested to hear what you have to say about Oversteps/Move of Ten and Exai as well.

    Although I have enjoyed everything they put out, Tri Repetae ++ is still my all time favorite which I guess reflects my age. I’d be interested to hear perspectives from fans who came to AE during the later period (Confield onward) and worked backwards to the 1990s material.

  21. Trace Hue

    Every artist has a peak. At times some artists make a comeback, but usually most artists become irrelevant…almost as if they are unable to compete in an evolving world. Its only what they produced while peaking (in this case music) that stands the test of time.

    For instance, you don’t see James Taylor singing his new material…he sings his stuff when he peaked in the 1970s.

    Autechre’s decade was definitely the 1990s. Sure, they might be able to replicate some of that success in a random track here or there, but the catalog strength definitely peaked awhile ago – making way for many new artists to take control of the reigns…at least until the next round of artists take over.

    My personal favorite is Flutter, from the Anti EP.

    • MARZIPAN FROG

      Well, I know it’s pretty late in the day with regard to this thread, but – yeh… nicely written and thoughtful review; I have to completely disagree with Trace Hue, though, that Autechre have already ‘peaked’. Their recent series of live soundboard releases have just upped the game in my opinion; as a fan who first fell in love with Amber shortly after it was released, and who has followed their sometimes wonky evolution since then, I agree that they have had their hits and misses in terms of pleasing various listeners, but then, what I love about their stuff, regardless, is – as the author put it – their attention to detail. There’s always something worth persevering to ‘get’, even if the initial sound is as far from ‘catchy’ as it gets (at least judged by many normative criteria for ‘catchiness’).

      Anyway, their live releases are managing to hold me in thrall in a way that I haven’t experienced with music since hearing György Ligeti’s Clocks and Clouds for the first time. And I’m lapping up this renewed sense of wow-ness, as it’s one of those rare second waves that can occur when an artist or artists manage to produce something that, once again, generates an alien experience of sometimes breathtaking now-ness. It’s also great to have it proven that though we all grow older, attitude and the will to experiment and explore really can be timeless, and just because you’ve been making music for 20 years doesn’t mean you’re no longer capable of being at the cutting edge.

      Bzzzzzk

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  24. I’ve been a fan of Autechre since Tri Repetae was released. For the longest time, I would have said that Aphex Twin was my absolute favorite (SAW2 is my favorite album of all time), but as time has moved on, Autechre is come to fill that space. Thanks for having a sense of humor about and using that to describe some of the music: sometimes it’s actually need. It’s kinda weird when you tell someone that your Autechre song sounds like BOOP BEEP BEEP BEEP BOB_BO DA DA TINK RIP A DING BLAM SKRITCHYSCRATCH.

    • tom204597

      Haha! I liked the part when you were saying about your favourite AE track, you’re not alone in situations like that I can tell you (happens to me too). I always say to someone who is looking to become a fan of AE the best thing to do is start with their debut and then work your way up because then you can see how they’ve gradually become more and more complex and avant-garde/experimental (although really i’d say they were avant-garde/experimental from the beginning, they just weren’t as crazy with they’re sound back then, they’re probably the kings of experimental electronic music in my opinion :) ).

      Also by listening to them that way it’s easier to get used to their sound if your not familiar with them already (usually takes me a while before I figure out what it is that Rob and Sean are doing on each album, although when everything just suddenly ‘clicks’ it’s fantastic). I don’t know about you, but one of the things I love about AE is the fact that the best parts of the tracks often gradually reveal themselves over repeated listens, it usually makes everything all the more rewarding that happens. Greetings from a fellow Autechre fan :)

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