Review Summary: "Nothing is harder to understand than a symbolic work. A symbol always transcends the one who makes use of it and makes him say in reality more than he is aware of expressing."
Listening to the music of Sean Booth and Rob Brown isn't really comparable to much else out there. While they've been working far beyond the curve they left behind years ago, they’ve not quite left the basic structures and mechanics of music behind altogether. In a sense, they still make pop music as pop music was meant to be made, as an amalgamation of rhythm and melody that encourages both physical and emotional reactions from the listeners. However, these same tropes and structures are expanded and contracted so far beyond our usual comfort zones that they seem to take on an antithetic, alien quality that is uniquely their own. “Instruments” are reduced to waves and distortions that mangle the musical landscape and are, at their core, nothing more than the fundamental mechanics of music, just presented from a vastly different point of view.
Sean Booth and Rob Brown’s decision to release these live recordings, which capture Autechre at their most elemental and entropic, serves as a treatise by which their vision can be better understood. To approach the nearly 10 hours of music contained in this compilation, listeners are encouraged to take everything at face value, to digest this material tabula rasa
and let the music inscribe itself into a blank slate instead of having to overwrite years of learned perceptions that do nothing more than obscure and cloud the impact of the music itself. Sections of these recordings, such as the final twenty minutes of the Krems set and the center of Nagano, are perhaps two of the most successful moments in this compilation. These snapshots of the longer, evolving compositions showcase Autechre's style in it's purest form, as a mutating, organic mass of synthetic sound stretched out over hour long improvisations.
Autechre broke ground years ago, and now have seen it fit to hone the musical space they now inhabit into the purest form of their own vision. These live compositions are nothing if not wholly and unequivocally Autechre through and through, and function, on a macro level, as symbols for the vast ocean of sounds contained in their prolific and ever-changing canon. While it's a monumental achievement to have such a unique yet consistent catalog of music, what is perhaps the most impressive is the ability of the duo of Sean Booth and Rob Brown to be so aware of their place in the musical field, and to be able to constantly condense, reformulate, and reevaluate their own sound. This candid understanding of their own vision is what keeps them at the top of their game even after all these years of making music, and these live recordings are illustrative of this exact idea.