Posts Tagged ‘autechre’

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2010 Rocks

May 26, 2010

So, folks, it’s been just about a month since I last gave a big summary of my favorite albums of Q1 of 2010, and I’ve already heard a slew of new, awesome music. 2010 has been an incredible year for music so far, and here’s some more great albums.

I’ve provided youtube samples, but do know that their sound quality is going to be a lot lower than the actual recordings. I’d really recommend getting the albums if you like what you hear.

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Clubroot - II:MMX

I admit to not being an ardent follower of dubstep in general, though I do dip into the genre on occasion. Anyone who knows me knows that I pretty much listen to Burial every day of my life, and I got pretty excited about the Luvstep mix earlier this year, and hell, I would just about never turn the stuff off if I ever heard it on the radio (never have). So I’m not beyond getting excited about a good dubstep release, and this new album by Dan Richmond, known as Clubroot, might be the prime example of the second most intelligent dubstep producer that I’ve heard (all due respect to those I haven’t). Clubroot’s sound is slow, deliberate and contemplative, and creates one hell of an aural environment of atmospheric dubstep; echoing synths and string samples hover in the air over visceral and subtly groovy dubstep beats. The result are melancholy mood pieces, and though they take a while to develop, once your ears are attuned to them it is easy to get addicted. The first Clubroot album last year was tasty, but II:MMX takes the style to the next level with cleaner production and more memorable melodies. No one is going to pretend that Dan Richmond is trying to push things forward half as much as William Bevan, but we’re still all the better for his excursions.

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LM1 - Blue Mountain EP

I’ll preface my next recommendation with yet another claim of ignorance; I may not know drum ‘n bass in and out, but I know good drum ‘n bass when I hear it. The Blue Mountain EP by LM1 is such music, energizing and completely smart. LM1 is the work of Allan Cowie, and it’s apparent that he is the master of the breakbeat. The beats themselves are propulsive but in no way intrusive, and the atmospheric touches he brings to his songs do a lot with a little. Ambient flourishes give the tracks on this EP a lot of volume. Particularly, the title track matches its title and creates a vast, expansive sound world with ambient textures. The other tracks are just as strong, slowly developing but fast moving ear candy for electronic fans. The big question: where did this come from? Well, it turns out LM1 is the founder and owner of Offworld Recordings, which he created after releasing a string of recordings on other record labels. Offworld already has four releases from a multitude of artists, and it turns out they rule too. The Blue Mountain EP has blown the top off of this exciting new project, and you can be sure that we’ll have coverage on all of it soon. In the meantime, go here for more information as well as an Offworld showcase, which indicates that this is truly the new revival of drum ‘n bass.

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Sleigh Bells - Treats

How old am I again? Well I feel like I’m about fifty five, scowling at legions of young music aficionados about how despite the fact that there is a lot of cool stuff going on in music at the dawn of this new decade, the fact stands that rock music just isn’t cool anymore and these kids don’t know what they’re missing. Sleigh Bells’ music may still be pop at its heart, but it rejuvenates the lost concept that it’s really cool to be really fucking loud. And loud Treats is. Blisteringly loud. The guitars cut like razors and their drums sound like running giants. The volume is going to be the first thing most anyone notices about the vast majority of these songs, but like Psychocandy before it, the noise encases a really down to earth pop album. The heart of this concept is heard most apparently on the sublimely jangly “Rill Rill,” which is Treats‘ most obvious accomplishment because it lacks the sheer volume that the rest of the tracks have. It’s slightly distorted and rough around the edges, but above all else it’s delicious pop music. The keystone of the album, it makes the other tracks seem less violent and more good-natured. You can tell “Crown on the Ground” wants to be on Kid’s Bop, but it got rejected because it had tourettes. “Tell ‘Em” was to be a high school fight song, but it got mangleded in a car accident. They’re fractured pop songs that you can more than relate to and side with, because despite the fact that they will destroy your cochleae, they just sound right.

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Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma

Steven Ellison, known as Flying Lotus, made one of the best records of 2008, Los Angeles. It is just a fact, and one that I have taken a few years to come to grips with and fully appreciate. In electronic music, it’s easy to see Flying Lotus becoming an important figure, and so it’s easy to see a new FlyLo album as an important occurrence. Cosmogramma pulls together an environment as rich in style as Los Angeles, with many notable aspects: Lots of live instrumentation, strong jazz elements, strings and harps, and a sense of mysticism. Also notable: while many of Los Angeles’ beats trailed behind bars by fractions of seconds, on Cosmogramma those beats lead the measures at a similarly minute speed, which makes for an album that is fully excited and running at a high speed but never trips over itself, because it is in the hands of a master. And as usual, there is a slew of sounds here that you would never find anywhere else. Describing those moments are almost impossible, but they stand for themselves; the super high frequency “Nose Art,” the free jazz experimental “Arkestry,” the awesome collaboration with Thom York on “…And the World Laughs With You,” and the heavy “Recoiled” are just a few such highlights, but they by no means stop there. This is yet another truly important electronic record from an artist with incredible talent. The future of music clearly lies with this man, and with that said, the future always seems to be bright.

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Autechre - Oversteps

Electronic producers Rob Brown and Sean Booth have been making music as Autechre for about twenty years now, and their new album Oversteps is their tenth. Throughout their flabbergasting career arc, they have invented, reinvented and refined not only their sound but contemporary progressive electronic music as a whole. Anyone who knows albums like Tri Repetae and LP5 know that a new Autechre album means a whole new world of sound, and Oversteps is no exception. The album is filled with jittery, mysterious productions, and it shows the group at their most melodic state since 1998’s LP5 (with the exception of several moments on 2008’s great Quaristice). A lot of times, and as is certainly the case for Oversteps, Autechre songs have sleeper qualities, puzzling at first and then later sinking in for heavy thinking. It stands that being an Autechre fan is incredibly awarding. In their ten album and twelve EP (give or take) career, they have crafted just about every song into its own sonic world, and with each album have built unshakable statements. Oversteps initially feels like a strong, logical progression. It’s possible that if it is given time, the yeast will rise and it will stand even taller. But what’s even more exciting and puzzling than these tracks is that Autechre are set to release another album this year. Move of Ten is due out on July 12, and a quick examination of the cover art certainly makes me surmise that the new album may be a companion piece to Oversteps. What that means is that we may still only have part of the full picture here, and thus Oversteps as well as Move of Ten may have new developments to explore.

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The National - High Violet

I have missed The National’s live show twice. I traded their show at Lollapalooza 2008 for a good spot at Nine Inch Nails, and their show at Pitchfork last year for a set from The Black Lips. At the time I wasn’t sad about having to make those choices at all. The National were always a band that were pleasant enough, had a specific style that I’m sometimes in the mood for, and made a handful of really cool songs that I liked a lot. But the fact stood that The National, in general, just bored me. It’s only now that High Violet has come out that I’m finally kicking myself for missing them and really getting excited about seeing them at Lollapalooza this year. Don’t get me wrong – the National have always been a good band, but High Violet really brings them above and beyond. A lot of these tracks are immediate National classics. The excellent first single “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” with its dramatic lyrics and melancholy atmosphere that the band are known for, only scrapes the surface of this album’s highlights. “Sorrow,” “Anyone’s Ghost” and “England” in particular show the band locking in and delivering some of their most savory, melodic moments on any of their five albums. High Violet is the work of a band that has had years to build, refine and experiment with their sound. Admittedly, High Violet and it’s overall sound are very similar stylistically to what The National has done before with such successful albums as Alligator and Boxer, but if you’re into this band, this may be their best album yet.

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Autechre – Quaristice

September 24, 2008

Probably the most noticeable difference between Autechre’s latest LP Quaristice and their back catalog is song length. The electronic superstar duo is still cranking out experimental music, as signified by the complex rhythms, amorphous tones, and colorful aural textures, harkening back to their latter experimental albums such as LP5 and Draft 7.30. The difference is that the songs are significantly smaller, with a few notable exceptions.

These exceptions perhaps reveal a growth in soundmasters Sean Booth and Rob Brown. The first song to break five minutes is Simmm, which sounds much like a Tri Repetae b-side. An abstract but traceable pots-n-pans beat is built upon with very clean cut sounding IDM synthesizers until the latter half of the song kicks in with an assortment of sound experimentation that we would come to expect from more recent Autechre; synthetic sounds vaguely resembling water splashing, Mario going down a green pipe, or metallic pops are the norm for the duo. What makes Simmm particularly interesting is that it develops and ends within the five minute length comfortably. We can only guess, but guess reasonably that if Autechre made this song ten years ago, it would have likely continued on for an additional unnecessary five minutes. This improved awareness of time is applied with great success on some songs, such as Simmm and many of the more off the wall compositions on the album, which are not necessarily bad but do not need to be test driven or worked with for more than the two or three minutes given to them.

However, another thing that makes Quaristice a pretty bold album for Autechre are its ambient pieces, and it is difficult to say whether or not they were subject to deliberate timing decisions. The opening Altibzz is one such ambient song, and is destined to be an electronic classic. Probably the most beautiful piece the group have ever recorded, it shows an impressive amount of restraint with its soft synthesizer melodies that intermingle with one another to form brief and understated harmonies, the result being a mesmerizingly beautiful song that is full of life. The song clocks in at 2:52, and although many listeners could have probably listened to the song for five minutes more without getting tired, its brevity makes the song that much more delicious and fleeting, much like the shortest and sweetest pieces by Warp compatriots Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada.

But alternately, we have the opposite side of the spectrum with the less melodic ambient pieces. Of these, Paralel Suns is quite short and both Notwo and Outh9X are very long. The catch is that both seem to work, Paralel Suns being enjoyably brief in contrast to its massive scope, and Notwo being quite long but consistently relaxing, while Outh9X actually does have quite a bit to say and is appropriately the longest song on the album.

But Quaristice is in no way an ambient album. Autechre probably do have it in them to make an ambient album, but Quaristice ends up being fun because of all of the bases it covers, ambient just happening to be the most interesting of them. It is a versatile electronic album, hitting genres as far away from one another as RDJ reminiscent acid house (chenc9), the aforementioned ambient tracks, glitch, and more. But this is Autechre, so a good deal of the tracks are less music than they are experimental organized sound.

It is likely that Quaristice will confuse listeners new to electronic music just as much as Autechre’s previous albums. However, it is still significantly more likely to draw new fans or change the minds of anyone who had their doubts about Autechre, due in part to the band’s new understanding of time management, which is a problem which they have always wrestled with. And because Autechre are still finding new and effective ways to express themselves through electronic music, and are still producing the occasional brilliant cornerstone song to the genre like Altibzz, it has become difficult to deny that they are the future of music, for better or worse.

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Autechre – Chiastic Slide

February 4, 2008

It is easy to say that Chiastic Slide is the point where Autechre decided to be experimental, but everything is relative when you talk about arguably the most progressive electronic artists of our time. Every Autechre album is a departure from what came before it, and every song feels like a disconnect from what preceded it. The band has always been decidedly focused on covering new ground, moreso than honing any of their countless styles. Even what fans consider to be the most perfectly formed album from the duo, Tri Repetae, is not completely certain of itself. Tri Repetae rushed headstrong into new ground, but new ground that could be considered accessible, and with hesitation. A follow up was going to be daunting no matter what, and Chiastic Slide ends up being about as striking as any other Autechre album, stylistically different, but delivering the around the same amount of positive yield and disappointment.

In that sense, it is unique, but naggingly inconsistent and incomplete. Also like all Autechre albums, it jettisons its ideas from its boundaries towards a gravitational origin that it always curves around and misses, but this time it gets closer than usual. There are a handful of songs that could be considered among the bands best, but surprisingly none that could be considered among their worst. The new sounds that are utilized here are compelling, as usual, sometimes adhering to their purposes and other times straying from them. Warm crunches that sound like snow crumbling under heavy boots comprise a considerable amount of the albums lower bass sounds, electronic scrambles run rampant, and wheezes and kitten mews randomly dot songs with some sort of vulnerability.

All in a days work for Autechre, throwing new sounds at the listener, but Chiastic Slide does end up being fairly song based, at least as much as Tri Repetae. The opening Clipater consists of two futuristic funk tunes, the first of which develops into the second almost unrecognizably to the passive ear. The last track, Nuane, follows a similar approach, a lengthy mechanical ass swinger that develops little by little for over ten minutes. Yes, the lengths are imposing, and the beats and hooks get tired. Autechre unfortunately don’t know how to end their songs very well, and their methods of segmentation are not completely effective. But these are some of Autechre’s most consistently interesting songs, and that makes up for the continued delay on the band picking up on their mistakes and pitfalls. Recury is also a standout, the most beat driven and alternatively relaxing of the entire album. The best song is Cichli, which resonates of the style that would punctuate the next album, LP5. The beat is continuous, heavy, fast paced, and danceable, and the synth line is melodic and interesting. Never has a cold Autechre synthesizer felt this full of life. This makes Cichli feel a little out of place when compared to the rest of the songs, most all of which feel cold and ultimately contrived. Autechre nail this song perfectly, hitting the spirit of the machine at it’s core, and even the near ten minute length doesn’t feel meandered on.

This is when the band is the most successful, when at least partially adhering to rhythm and melody. The rest of the songs usually only adhere to one of the two, and their repetition is their downfall. Some beats just shouldn’t be held for as long as they are, especially when they have almost no recognizable rhythm, and some of the melodies are too atonal to be interesting. However, the songs that aren’t always the most satisfying, Tewe, Hub, Calbruc, and Pule, seem to point towards LP5, so there is at least direction and consistency in the experimentation, and chances are they will strike fans as fun or interesting.

This probably isn’t the best Autechre album, and it sure isn’t the most digestible or consistent, but there is something here that gives the individual tracks more soul than can be seen anywhere else in the bands discography. Even Tri Repetae and Incunabula, although nuanced and fun, often times felt sterile, but Chiastic Slide feels fertile with ideas, and for the first time, sure of itself. Never have I seen an electronic artist, or scarcely a band, as frustrating as Autechre. Their albums are always just interesting and complex enough for me to approach them on a higher level, but just too far away from what they should be in terms of quality. I do keep on coming back to them though, for some reason, something subliminal that I can’t put into words or even fully understand myself. I have probably had more fun exploring Chiastic Slide than the other albums. This is because although Chiastic Slide is the usual beautiful mess, it somehow feels essential to Autechre’s body of work, a notion that their other albums constantly struggle with.