Review Summary: when aliens visit earth
Autechre's discography is one that is as varied as it is challenging. From the ambient soundscapes of Amber
to the formless, rhythmic experimentation of Confield
, Autechre have covered more ground within the realms of electronic music than almost any other artist. This makes it a bit difficult to approach their music for the simple fact that there isn’t really a single entity of Autechre. Listening to a single release gives almost no indication of what the band stands to achieve as collective unit. However, lying within their large and accomplished catalogue are several releases that offer a sort of bridge into the world of Autechre's music. The Anvil Vapre
EP, released in the same year as their seminal record Tri Repetae
(and rereleased in combination with this record as the Tri Repetae++
compilation), functions as one of these gateways into Autechre's catalogue of music; not because it is any less rewarding than any of their other releases, but because it offers a streamlined and straightforward exegesis on the many concepts in which their music evolved as their career progressed.
While many of the elements that comprise both Autechre's earlier and later works are present, most of them are toned down to a dull roar. Second Bad Vilbel opens up with a blast of harsh noise followed by a pretty generic breakbeat that functions as the rhythm section for most of the rest of the track. This opening track serves as a good indicator of what the rest of the EP will sound like. While the rhythm sections in later tracks to break into more abstract territory than the breakbeat on the opener, for the most part the rhythmic experimentation that would become an essential element of later Autechre releases is largely subdued. However, this lesser focus on the rhythmic portion of Autechre's sound allow for their other strengths to shine through.
On later releases like Confield
and Draft 7.30
, the synth patterns and ambient loops present on the Amber
and Tri Repetae
era works are left in the background in favor of a more experimental and abstract approach. Anvil Vapre, however, derives most of its quality from the included synth work. All four tracks are built around a central theme that, in typical Autechre fashion, unfolds itself through the duration of each respective track. With the exception of the opening track, which evolves the opening motif into a second in the latter half of the track, the three subsequent tracks function in a rather circular fashion, with the central theme presenting itself in the beginning and then morphing back into original idea by the time the track ends. This structure reveals why Anvil Vapre
is an essential part of the Autechre's catalogue and a good segway into the world of their music.
On the surface, this EP seems like a relatively simple and toned down version of the rest of Autechre's catalogue. But underneath the initial reaction lurks a level of complexity and abstraction that rewards the listener for spending time dissecting the four included tracks. It is this very component that allows Anvil Vapre to function as a sort of ferry into the rest of Autechre's music. It allows for the inexperienced user to enjoy and appreciate the EP without being alienated by the complexity and difficulty of their later works all while being introduced to many of the tendencies that Autechre have already and would later adopt. This is a rather difficult task, because as mentioned before there is such a large variation of different "Autechres" that show themselves throughout their discography that no one album or description can fully cover all the ground. But, as a bridge and as a worthwhile part of Autechre's catalogue, Anvil Vapre
is both an essential and rewarding listen worthy of both newcomers and current fans of Autechre's music.