Posted on Feb 24th 2010 01:18 am
Warp Records 2010
14 Tracks. 71mins11secs
A new Autechre album is always a step into the unknown, so different have each of their records been. Evolving totally outside of any trend or fashion, Sean Booth and Rob Brown have, in the nineteen years since their first EP, Cavity Job, was published, followed a path all of their own and established a language which is tweaked and developed to suit their own evolution. Yet, far from being totally random, their sound is the fruit of a relatively linear evolution, from classic electronica textures to fractured soundscapes and arid rhythmic forms. In 2008, Quaristice denoted a clear step away from the beat-driven structures of the Confield-Draft 7.30-Untilted triptych, where melodies existed mostly in withered state, as once again vibrant musical forms and warm electronic sounds took prominence over rhythms.
With Oversteps, Autechre have accentuated this trend quite drastically, often doing away with beats altogether and relying instead on shimmering soundscapes and intricate melodic patterns to weave a refined series of textured pieces which evoke, at times, some of their early work. Yet, there is here a level of complexity, even in the simpler tracks, which is more indebted to the austere patterns of Confield or Draft 7.30 than to the rich progressive templates of Amber or Tri Repetae. This is characterised by seemingly random sequences of notes which do not instantly exist in coherent melodies but are instead progressively rendered into varied musical expressions. This is something Autechre have always experimented with, in one form or another, but, since Quaristice, it has become pivotal to their work. Bribes of arpeggios and motifs are blasted into tiny particles and processed into granular sound forms which are then constantly re-organised into abstract concentrations. On pieces such as known(1), pt2ph8, see on see, redfall or krYlon, this intense handling results in particularly glistening constructions, at time drifting over smooth surfaces, at others breaking beautiful effusions of metallic sounds. Enhanced perhaps by the complete absence of beats, these pieces feel particularly fluid, spacious and unusually pastoral.
Elsewhere, Autechre coat their dense formations with hints of funk (Treale, O=0, d-sho qub) and techno (r ess, os veix3), at times through surprisingly straightforward drum sections, at others through much less linear forms, wrapping them around elaborate electronic textures and reverbs to create thoroughly upfront and affirmative pieces. The aforementioned Treale for instance, with smooth chords placed over a gritty electronic bass and a fairly withdrawn rhythmic section, radiates with powerful sub-surface pulses, while the splintered textures of r ess, os veix3 or st epreo give Oversteps some of its darkest undertones and occasionally evoke the fragmented outlines of Chiastic Slide.
While the level of complexity of both soundscapes and compositions is as high as ever, Oversteps is ultimately, like many of its predecessors, a deeply emotional and evocative record. With this album, their more accessible in years, though, Sean Booth and Rob Brown bring this particular element of their work much closer to the surface and allow it to remain present throughout. Building from the dynamics of Quaristice but taking this much further, Autechre have created with Oversteps one of their most compelling records to date.
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