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Matt P.
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A Guide To Autechre

Autechre was the catalyst for the expansion of my music taste almost 2 ryears ago. In a rworld rwhere electronic music seemed like a bunch of rdance beats, bass drops, white girls in rfuzzy rboots, and smelly clubs (not rthat these things are bad, but 2 years ago me sure did rthink so) rAutechre ropened my eyes to the real world of electronic music. And it's taken me rralmost that rentire time to finally digest (or at least try to) their entire rdiscography. rThrough that time they remerged as my current favorite rmusical act, but the vastness of rtheir discography is a rformidable opponent rfor anyone attempting to pierce the veil that is rRob Brown and Sean rrBooth's robot world. So this list will attempt to break down the rAutechre rlegacy in what i think ris the easiest way to digest, and hopefully some of ryou will rfind as much to love as i did.
1 The LP's


Regardless of the fact that IDM is a patronizing and ridiculous genre tag, Autechre is the quintessential IDM act, if not for the simple fact that other than being endlessly cerebral and challenging there are really no two Autechre albums do the same things in the same way yet manage to sound exactly like an Autechre album every time. Even though i would recommend listening chronologically (like you should with any discography) if you prefer a more guided approach i will attempt to provide that. Keep in mind this is by no means ranked by strength (thats a whole new beast to tackle), but a guide for listening.
2Autechre
Tri Repetae


Tri Repetae album is widely regarded as their best release (even though every Autechre has someone claiming it's the best thing they ever did) and it's probably because it is the most simply challenging record they ever did. It's not quite at the spastic robotcore of albums like LP5 and Confield but it's also not as straightforward as the first two records. It's got cold melodies, glitchy subbeats, and even a few rhythms here or there that you might possibly could dance to. It's challenging but not too challenging and i think that's probably why it is the best album to start with and why it has had such a lasting appeal. This is robot music made for people to listen to.
3Autechre
Amber


This is probably the most emotionally appealing album Autechre ever did, which is saying something for a band that is notoriously devoid of emotional appeal (even though i find problems with this claim). It's mostly ambient techno, reminiscent of most of the other stuff coming out of the Warp factory at the time (think early Aphex except not exactly like that). Lot's of 808 and 909 rhythmic sections and great synthwork that approaches being challenging at times but never really takes the extra step into robotland that began with Tri Repetae the next year. This is music made for people to listen to.
4Autechre
LP5


This is the Autechre that is hard to get. Glitchy, complex rhythmic patterns, melodies that fluctuate from being the rhythm sections and falling behind it only to reappear out of nowhere 3 minutes later, weird time signatures and implementation with other strange rhythmic paradoxes (like the Risset rhythm of Fold 4, Wrap 3). Autechre is mostly known for their rhythmic experimentation but they are equally as good musicians and LP5 shows just how to make experimental electronic music still have some sort of visceral quality. Robot music for organic robots.
5Autechre
Quaristice


Anyone who says Quaristice was a "failed experiment" probably doesn't understand Autechre. Quaristice takes the cold, mechanical atmosphere of Tri Repetae, slows it down, puts some damn awesome synthwork behind it, and emerges with a surprisingly viceral piece of glitchy, downtempo, synth heavy IDM. In fact it only really gets called an experiment because it isn't as crazy as the mid era work that came before it. Quaristice is the beginning of the third era of Autechre and to the uninitiated should be one of the earier albums to get into. Slow robot music for people who only talk to robots.
6Autechre
Confield


Confield might not be Autechre's most rhythmically complex album it does have the honor of being their most sterile. If there is an Autechre album that even people who like Autechre won't like, it's Confield. This is music that is almost purely devoid of emotional appeal or viscera. But there's a magical appeal to the complete sterility of Confield that sort of makes the album a paradox. It's proof that nothing can sometimes have a tactile presence that can be latched onto. Robot music only for robots.
7Autechre
Chiastic Slide


Chiastic Slide was the most surprising part of Autechre's discography personally but only because of the public opinion of Autechre. It seems like this album gets lumped into the second era of Autechre (i.e. pure robotmusic) when in fact it has more in common with Tri Repetae than it does with LP5. There is more of a focus on traditional songwriting techniques (i.e. rhythmic backbone for melodic and harmonic presentation) and while it does hint at what is to come, it's much less inaccessible than most reviews would have you believe. If you enjoy Tri Repetae you will most likely enjoy this. Robot music for people who enjoy earlier robot music.
8Autechre
Untilted


Untilted is one of those Autechre albums that has people claiming it's the best thing they ever did while others claim it's a weak link with seemingly no middle ground. It's like a more restrained version of what LP5 might have sounded like if it was made 7 years after LP5. Regardless, it contains one of Autechre's best tracks (the massive Sublimit) and other gems like The Trees and Pro Radii. If you get to this point and liked LP5 and Confield, dive into this headfirst. If the robotcore is a bit out of your reach, wait a bit for everything to sink in. Robot music for indecisive robots.
9Autechre
Oversteps


Oversteps is really the beginning of the summary period of Autechre, where they were less involved in pushing current limits as wrapping up all their ideas into one neat little package (the symbolism of 0 on this record pretty much makes that concrete, but Autechre's aesthetics are another beast entirely). Next to Amber, this is their most emotionally resonant record Autechre ever did and most likely is a harkening back to the more synth based, ambient parts of their output, and while the strange robot rhythms are still present to an extent, they are dialed back to a dull roar to let the musicians in Autechre take over. The only reason this is so low on the list of priorities is because it's a throwback and listening to throwbacks before you listen to the original is a bit self defeating. Robot music for robots with souls.
10Autechre
Exai


If Oversteps was a summary of early Autechre, Exai is a summary of mid era Autechre. It is one of the strongest record's they ever put out and is a perfect summary of the Autechre that most uninitiated view with interested apprehension. Once again, the only reason this is so low is because i find it more helpful to listen to a summary after being exposed to the source material. Robot music for robots who already know heir robots.
11Autechre
Draft 7.30


Draft 7.30 is Autechre going off the deepend. This album chronicles the process of making a rhythm and then slowly destroying it over the next few minutes. Sparse soundscapes and insanity make this probably the most difficult out of all Autechre's releases to get into, but, like everything else they do, it is extremely rewarding if you do overcome the initial barriers. Approach this with either experience of caution.
12Autechre
Incunabula


An early relic of their Artificial Intelligence days, Incunabula was the final full-length album of the Artificial Intelligence series to come out before the release of the final compilation, Artificial Intelligence II. The only reason this is so low is because it is somewhat of a relic, even if it is still amazing. This is Autechre before the really found their Autechre sound. There are hint's at what they would become but these elements were much more focused and apparent on the subsequent release Amber. Regardless, this might be the strongest album to come out of the Artificial Intelligence lineup right next to Black Dog Productions' Bytes. Essential ambient techno/proto-IDM that hints at the greatness that was in store.
13 The Ep's


Despite what Baseline says, Autechre's EP's are an essential part of their discography and contain some of the best work they've ever put out. They also have a fascination with making EP's longer than regular LP's so sometimes you're in for more than you realize. They also tend to take more liberties with presentation on the EP's than on their LP's (see: Quaristice.Quadrange.ep.ae and the fact that a remix basically means an entirely new song) so it can be a little confusing at times, but very much worth it in the end. Here's the breakdown.
14Autechre
Garbage


These first two EP's are some of the best work Autechre has ever done, but Garbage is on another level entirely. The opening 12 minute behemoth Garbagemx36 seems like it lasts half the time it really does. It comes directly from the Tri Repetae school of composition and is proof that Autechre were pushing the boundaries in more areas than just how complex you can make a beat. The opening track would make this EP worth it alone except for the fact that the rest of the EP is just as good and is rounded off by the beautiful ambient piece Vietrmx21 that makes me wish they would just go ahead and release a straight ambient record at this point. Absolutely essential in their discography.
15Autechre
Anvil Vapre


Anvil Vapre is notable not because it does anything inherently complex or revolutionary, but because it shows when Autechre aren't focused on bending your mind they can create surprisingly catchy music. This EP could have been played in a club and no one would have batted an eye or twisted anything trying to dance to it. It's aggressive, its fast, its noisy, and it's got a bunch of great synth leads and melodies that make it compelling on a much more visceral level than most of their work that would come after. If you want to hear Autechre make a barebones, dancable electronic record, Anvil Vapre is just that.
16Autechre
Move of Ten


If Oversteps was Autechre harkening back to their more restrained, synth based sound then Move of Ten was the exact opposite. Basically a full length that gets labeled as an EP (at ten tracks long), this is Autechre going back to having fun with music. It's glitchy, its weird, its got beats that take days to get, but it's also surprisingly lighthearted and dare i say, playful? This will definitely resonate with fans of their more out-there music but it's certainly not as emotionally neutral as albums like Confield and Draft 7.30. This is the album that fans of both sides of Autechre should see eye to eye on. Essential listening.
17Autechre
EP7


Coming out just after revolutionary LP5, EP7 has just as much content and functions like the opposing side of the same coin. The crazy beats are there, but more restrained. The melodies and synthwork is sparse but functions as much more of a focal point that it does on LP5. The weird shit is still there, but it less rhythmic experiments than experiments with what kind of sounds actually qualify as music. If you listened to albums like LP5, Confield, and draft 7.30 but wanted something more tangable to grasp onto, EP7 is for you. It's Autechre making brain music that they want you to like.
18Autechre
Quaristice.Quadrange.ep.ae


Here is one of the best examples of Autechre messing with presentation just as much as they mess with the laws of nature. Quaristice.Quadrange.ep.ae was a digital only album of every single track that was on Quaristice, just jumbled up and messed with, closed by a 58 minute ambient/downtempo track that blasts past with the brilliance of all of the most prolific ambient artists out there. It doesn't get much better than a 58 minute piece of music that feels like half the time. If you liked Quaristice, you'll like this, and you owe it to yourself to sit through all of the closer. It is brilliant on a level that most musical acts never really approach.
19Autechre
Gantz Graf


If Draft 7.30 was the most musically challenging of their LP's then Gantz Graf is the most challenging of their EP's. It's like the Ascension of the electronic world. You can try and lie your way out of claiming that you know what's going on in the title track, but everyone else knows that's a bold faced lie. But, as typical with Autechre's music, you don't necessarily have to understand it to like it. One of the more interesting experiments they did but most certainly not fruitless. This one's for the robot maniacs out there.
20Autechre
Envane


Supposedly Autechre's "hip-hop" experiment and guess what, it sounds nothing like what you think it does. Groovy beats show up here and there but at it's heart it sits right at the tail end of the first era. Laughing Quarter is one of their best tracks, and if you want to groove to it you can (i mean if you really want to). Don't let the "hip-hop" word throw you off, this Autechre through and through and good Autechre.
21Autechre
Peel Session


Autechre's EP's have an uncanny ability of showcasing their evolution better than their LP's do. Well, maybe not their evolution, but the transitions they went from album to album and era to era. Recorded in 1995 during a radio session, this wasn't officially released until much later. Regardless, Peel Sessions showcases the transition of Autechre from the ambient techno/proto-IDM masters of the Artificial Intelligence lineup to the experimental, mind bending behemoths most people know them as. The ethereal synths and melodies are here in full force but you can really start to here the multilayered and ultra-nitpicky rhythmic sections that would later define their sound take shape. This isn't just an interesting relic however, it's three of the best tracks from their early era, and pretty essential if you decide you are a fan of Autechre.
22Autechre
Cichlisuite


This is where we start getting into the "only for hardcore fans" part of their EP's. Cichlisuite consists of 4 remixes of the track Cichli from Chiastic slide that sound nothing like the original track and one new one. Autechre's music was always basically a sonic palimpsest, but Cichlisuite takes that to another level. If you listen close enough you can apparently hear echoes of older tracks from albums like LP5 but it's so buried under the new ideas that it really takes some effort to dig out where these tracks derive from. It's as if Autechre were saying "music has always been about stealing and just making sure no one noticed". If you're hardcore into Autechre then this is an essential and extremely rewarding listen.
23Autechre
Anti


The story behind Anti EP is almost as interesting as the music contained. Anti is a protest record through and through. It was a response to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 which was meant to crack down on raves, which it described as being public gatherings where music was played. The Bill defined music as a "succession of repetitive beats", so, in true Autechre fashion, Flutter was programmed so as to never repeat the same beat twice, technically circumventing the ban established by the Bill. All of the profits for the EP went to the National Council for Civil Liberties, even though there was a disclaimer on the record claiming no political alignment and this protest was in support of personal freedoms. What's most interesting about this is that the music, even though it was made with an agenda, is still surprisingly compelling. Flutter is one of the most brilliant electronic recordings ever, because even though it was programmed to circumvent the law, it doesn't sound nearly as out there as most of their other rhythmically experimental stuff. It adheres to the Amber/Tri Repetae era in style, but when you combine both strength of the music and the reasons behind it's inception, it's a pretty essential part of Autechre's discography.
24Autechre
Splitrmx12


The most striped down release Autechre ever did. Take Amber, make it even simpler than it is, and you have Splitrmx12. Fortunately for Autechre they aren't just good at making spastic robot music and these two tracks manage to be pretty compelling if you know what you're getting yourself into. For completes only but worth it no doubt.
25Autechre
Basscad,EP


Another remix EP, this is a collection of 5 songs that are reinterpretations of the track Basscadet from Incunabula. Unfortunately this one isn't quite as successful as Cichlisuite (probably because it was a younger Autechre) and kind of goes all over the place. There are spots of brilliance (like the subterranean world of Basscadet (Basscadubmx)) but other inclusions seem kind of pointless and only there for the novelty of being there. Worth a listen definitely if you become an Autechre fan, but nothing essential.
26 Autechre
Peel Sessions 2


The second released Peel session, in which none of the songs were given titles and Peel made them up, is pretty much by the numbers Autechre that even hints at being warm from time to time. Some great tracks on here and definitely worth getting once you're deeper into the Autechre world, but nothing to high on the priority list.
27Autechre
We R Are Why


Released as a 12" in Autechre's earlier years, this one is a bit "dancier" than what would come or even really what they were doing around the same time. That's probably the reason it was released as a 12" instead of on another format. Regardless, the two tracks included are pretty good (Autechre has never put out anything that even approaches bad) but this one is for the most hardcore only.
28 Autechre
Digital Exclusive EP


Run off from the massive amount of content produced during the Quaristice sessions, only there's a reason these weren't put on the album or the EP. Blyz Castl is very good but the other two tracks don't really sounds like Quaristice material and, while still pretty good, aren't nearly as compelling as the other material. For completists only.
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