Posted on Mar 18th 2011 01:22 am
Warp Records 2011
47 Tracks. 339mins59secs
For years, Autechre alternated albums and EPs with extreme regularity, the latter often acting as experimental playgrounds for Sean Booth and Rob Brown to try out new ideas. This release documents the first ten years of the band, from their very first, pre-Warp, outting to Gantz Graf. While Autechre have continued to release occasional EPs after that, they have been less prolific with that format in recent years, only two, Quaristice.Quadrange and Move Of Ten, having materialised, the former solely made available as a digital release, both counting too many tracks to be considered proper EPs.
Basscad EP (1994) consisted of entirely revised versions of Basscadet, a track originally featured on the band’s Incunabula album, released the year before, some created by the band themselves, others concocted by Seefeel or Beaumont Hannant, unfortunately omitted here. This remains the band’s only remix EP, the only other release coming close to a remix project being Quaristice.Quadrange, released in 2008, on which Autechre collected entirely different versions of tracks originally featured on Quaristice. Consequent EPs have all been standalone releases, for the most part album companions (Garbage, Anvil Vapre, Envane, which all used tracks said to have been recorded during the sessions for Amber, Tri Repetae and Chiastic Slide respectively).
Autechre first got noticed with two tracks featured on Warp’s seminal original Artificial Intelligence compilation, but it wasn’t quite their first foray into the music industry. One release pre-dates the long standing association between the pair and Warp. Initially released in 1991 as a very limited white label EP on the short lived Hardcore Records, Cavity Job and Accelera 1 & 2, available here for the first time on CD, stand apart in Autechre’s cannon. While these two tracks display some early signs of the band’s regular influences (hip-hop and breakbeat), there is nothing of the infinitely complex abstraction that has been at the core of every single of their releases since. Instead, these were typical hardcore rave anthems of that era, complete with vocal samples, combining breakbeat, techno and acid house in a similar way to early Black Dog. Autechre never returned to such overtly dance floor-orientated sound, but the hardcore element has regularly featured in their work, never as prominently as on Gantz Graf, and it is certainly no coincidence that these two EPs open and close this compendium. Gantz Graf was an altogether much more abstract and extreme affair however. At the time of its released, the CD was bundled up with a DVD which featured the cutting-edge visual feast that was Alex Rutterford’s video for the title track, which attracted a lot of attention for its hyperactive digital imagery, which appeared to react to the razor-sharp rhythm and equally digital cut-up aspect of the track. As a musical piece, this is probably as extreme as Autechre have ever been, their equivalent to Aphex Twin’s Come To Daddy perhaps.
In between these two poles, and beyond, Autechre have relentlessly continued to experiment with new sounds and remained totally outside of any movement and fashion, and have steered clear of any overbearing message in their work. One major exception to this however is Anti (1994), published as a protest against an anti-rave clause included in the UK Criminal Justice and Public Order Act introduced that same year which outlawed the performance of music containing a ‘succession of repetitive beats’ at crowd gatherings. While two of the three tracks on the EP (Lost and Djarum) were explicitly made from repetitive patterns, the third, Flutter, was programmed in such a way that, despite sounding repetitive, no two bars were exactly the same, hence making it a fully legal piece to play at raves. Denounced by some as a gimmick novelty release at the time, it has since won over its critics to become one of Autechre’s most emblematic releases.
Garbage, Anvil Vapre and Envane, released between 1995 and 1997, saw the band gaining in confidence and daring push boundaries much further to deliver some of their most compelling EPs, the later two especially partially reflecting the intense organic structures found on Tri Repetae and Chiastic Slide. While there was little space for melody amidst the corrosive distorted noises and concussed beat of Second Bad Vilbel, tracks such as Second Scepe, Second Scout or Laughing Quarter appeared surprisingly light, while Second Peng dubby patterns proved extremely dense amd Goz Quarter sounded like some futuristic jazz. Published between Chiastic Slide and LP5, Cichlisuite announced a definite change of direction as the pair were seen ditching heavily distorted and cut-up sounds and noises for the much cleaner, almost clinical textures which were further developed over the next couple of years.
Counting eleven tracks and spanning seventy minutes, EP7 (1998) defied usual EP conventions. Additionally, the initial UK CD release contained a hidden track which could only be accessed by pressing rewind from the beginning of Rpeg. Released almost a year after LP5, on the cusp of the band’s most experimental and abstract era, EP7 was a resolutely more atmospheric collection, although, it showed a level of complexity which would reach its peak between Confield and Untilted. Completing this release as the band’s two Peel Session EPs, released in 1999 and 2001 respectively. Both sessions were recorded in the band’s studio, the first in 1995, the second four years later. When Autechre delivered the second set of tracks, they were all untitled and consequently named Gelk, Blifil, Gaekwad and 19 Headaches by Peel while on air.
Autechre would never quite suit a traditional best of, but this collection certainly serves to highlight a part of Sean Booth’s and Rob Brown’s considerable body of work which has often been at the forefront of their sound. It also demonstrate, if needed, how consistent they have been, not only during their first ten years, but all along their career.