At last the waiting is over — my copy of Autechre’s new album, Untilted, landed on the doormat today. Warpmart were great once again. The album isn’t due out until Monday, although the postie made me wait until half past one anyway.
The tracks have probably been floating around on the internet for two months now. I resisted; I rarely download tracks, instead opting for the excited-kid-on-Christmas-Day experience. Reviews seem to have been mixed to say the least. It’s difficult to know what to think of Autechre sometimes. A few weeks ago on BBC Radio 3’s Mixing It, one of the presenters (I can never tell which one is which) suggested that people have just become immune to Autechre’s awesomeness.
I have exactly the same feeling. It’s practically got to the stage where you almost expect Autechre’s music to leap out of the headphones and physically turn your ears inside-out. Draft 7.30 didn’t surprise me much — but it’s the album I’ve listened to the most in the past two years. This time, with Untilted, I’m actually quite underwhelmed. Even the artwork seems half-arsed. The layout is practically the same as Draft 7.30’s, and it doesn’t come with all the cool abstract artwork that came with Draft 7.30. What is there is good, but there’s little of it. Slightly disappointing from Alexander Rutterford.
However, I still quite enjoy it and it’s clearly a good album. I mean, if these tracks were to be released by somebody other than Autechre, or even if this was five-year-old Autechre music, I’d probably think it was amazing. Instead I was sitting there thinking, “It’s like Draft 7.30 again. Is this the future direction of Autechre?”
If you can dispense with the beard-stroking and just enjoy the music for what it is, this is actually a great album. It kicks off with LCC, a track which I think wouldn’t sound too out-of-place in Chiastic Slide, which is going back a bit. It starts off being very repetitive, with more bits getting added as the track progresses. Much has been made of the repetition in this album. I can’t say it’s much different to any other Autechre. It’s quite common for an Autechre track to be repetitive, but with bits changing here and there throughout the track.
Augmatic Disport is the best example of this to be found on Untilted. It is fantastic, starting off a couple of bars of tumbling drums. It’s a great sound, repeating over and over again. But it changes each time, initially retaining its general shape, but eventually losing that aswell a couple of minutes in. The track ends up evolving in a typical Autechre manner, with elements of the start of the track undoubtedly remaining, but somehow in a completely different environment. Augmatic Disport would have made a great ending to the album, but actually marks the mid-point.
Fermium is the most obviously repetitive track. The whole thing runs like clockwork. It sounds a bit like a countdown of some sort. Then it becomes what some would call “organised chaos”, another Autechre trademark, if you like.
Pro Radii is a very dark track; genuinely depressing if you ask me. Quite disturbing and unsettling actually. There must have been something up when they wrote this. I found it very difficult to listen to. In a way it just goes to prove how emotional Autechre’s music can be, despite what most non-fans seem to think. It reminds me of Brothomstates, although much darker than that. Perhaps this is the track that — like the best Autechre — will grow on me and become one of my favourites… But this is simply an unsettling track to listen to.
The track that makes this album is Ipacial Section. It could be the closest you ever get to a “typical” Autechre track. It seems to sum up so much that’s great about Autechre in under ten minutes. Top-drawer stuff aswell.
As I said, it’s difficult to know what to think. If you want the moon on a stick, this won’t provide it I’m afraid. It’s only been in my posession for five hours, and my opinion on this album could swing either way. I’ll probably end up liking it though — the best Autechre often takes a while to get into. But I doubt that this will be one of my favourite Autechre albums.