Monday, February 4, 2008

Autechre's new album "Quaristice" + April US Tour

15+ years now into their sonic quest to bridge the avant-electronic traditions of INA-GRM
/IRCAM style Musique Concrete with the New York City 80's urban beat of early Electro and
Hip-Hop - this 9th album from the Autechre duo of Sean Booth/Rob Brown listens as *both*
nearly as much a step forward into the unknown as their last three *and* simultaneously more
traditionally musical than anything they've dedicated to recording since 1999's "EP7". In fact,
it could be that "Quaristice" is the release that many people were expecting some 7 years ago,
when instead, we got that extraordinary forward-thinking transmission that was "Confield".
There's melodicism here and ambiance and rhythm and more traditional musical qualities
than we've heard from them in awhile, rubbing right up alongside some unquantifiable
AE-style sonic mentalism. Where the previous album "Untilted" was a rhythmic hyperfrenetic
barrage, this one is more fluid and less angular... and more diverse. Across the aural landscape
of the album there's a sense of all the tools in the Autechre toolkit having been taken out to
produce their whole spectrum of varying results. Some of which we've encountered from them
before, others surprisingly new. On occasion, this desire for all-inclusiveness creates a sense
that the album is fractured, unfinished, trying to say it all - prototypes, rather than the usual
handful of elaborately detailed finished pieces. This is especially apparent in the the smaller
beatless, textural interludes that are spread throughout the album. But that perception is
often shattered by the following track when the formlessness of the moment before collides
with the hyperstructural shapes of that which follows. As a consequence, in the course of the
70+minute listen, "Quaristice" is by degrees sonically architectural, chaotic, dynamic, textural,
spacially ambiant, suggestively melodic and of course that Autechre constant; rhythmic.

While not as forward-thinking and consistently progressive as their previous two significant
post-millennial efforts, namely; "Confield" or "Untilted" - this new album makes its own
progress in reinventing Autechre's sound as one of reassessing their past and selectively
applying aspects of their previous achievements to the current M.O. This is in-part brought
about by a shift back to more real-time hardware-based composition creating their raw material
from which they work. A process Rob Brown has described in interview as; "A lot of the album is
material cut down from these huge jam sessions that we'd done, then put all the best work
together, condensed if you like into a tangible passage of music – then boiled down into discreet
sections and those constructed into material that would make a good track". With this comes the
fluidity and squelch of analog technology and its curious variables, eruptions and 'looseness' of
form. And a good part of the album highlights the kind of high-wire balance between chaos and
precise repetitive order that is expressed by the collisions of computer-based written tech and
hardware improvisation defining the actions of that software.

Considering Booth/Brown's longstanding, adventurous, near-auteur status in the contemporary
popular electronic music landscape, this is a curious and unexpected step forward. It listens
like a mix of the kind of pure ever-advancing mutation of their past decade of works, but also
as a summation of their previous incarnations. A reinvention of the sort where an artist revisits
their previous efforts and molds similar ideas into some totally new shapes using their more
progressive skills and more articulate, developed vocabulary. As ever, "Quaristice" finds
Autechre moving forward, this time through, bringing more of their sonic past along in tow.

Link to Autechre's "Quaristice" site
Link to Warp Records site

"We are proud to announce that Autechre will release their new album 'Quaristice'
on 3rd March 2008. The record is Rob Brown and Sean Booth's 9th album, and
follows 2005's Untilted. Autechre also embark on European and American tours
when the album is released - see the dates below."

April US Dates:

04-04 Los Angeles, CA - Echoplex *
04-05 San Francisco, CA - Mezzanine *
04-06 Portland, OR - Doug Fir *
04-07 Seattle, WA - Neumos *
04-08 Vancouver, British Columbia - Richards on Richards *
04-11 Chicago, IL - The Abbey *
04-12 Toronto, Ontario - Lees Palace *
04-13 Montreal, Quebec - Club Soda *
04-14 Cambridge, MA - Middle East Downstairs *
04-15 Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall of Williamsburg *
04-16 Philadelphia, PA - Transit *
04-17 Washington, DC - Black Cat *

* with Massonix, Rob Hall

addendum: "Quaristice (Special Edition)"

The "limited to 1000 worldwide brushed steel laser-etched slipcase edition containing
a gatefold double-CD with a second disc of 'versions'" not only offers to those who were
on top of the game (this edition sold out from warpmart in under 12 hours) a crazy-precise
work of engineering in the form of the edition artwork, but rare insight into AE's methodology
as well a more expansive elaboration on the album's sonic palette and structural themes:

Link to Warp's "Quaristice (Special Edition)" site

Where many of the original tracks listen like concise, edited sentences - the 'versions' seem to
be the complete paragraph - in that way where AE indulge more of that 'repetitive structures
pushing through to new synchronicities' and introduce shifts in tempo and sound design along the
way. Some of the pieces do verge on maddening redundancy, but then progress to reveal the method
in the madness, in a way that's more striking for the listener persevering and gaining greater rewards.
A couple of the tracks are even radically different. "Fol4" being a good example; on "Quaristice" this
short piece was a jaunt of crashing musique-concrete barrage filled with dynamic waves of textural
detritus and froth. The 'version' supplied here employs many of the same elements, but expands on
their arrangement into an 11 minute rhythmic industrialized odyssey through the same landscape.
As much as its a revelation to get to hear these pieces in this context, the knowledge that so little of
AE's audience will have the privilege of hearing this perspective into Booth/Brown's sonic world is a
bit of a collective disappointment. For my own future listening, I think its going to be these 'versions'
of the tracks that I return to over what now listens like the 'edits' on the album-proper.