Review Summary: Autechre continue to break ground they didn't know was there.
As much as Autechre’s self-appointed disciples would have you believe otherwise, the duo they so love to deify are actually human, susceptible to the same creative troughs that everyone else is. To point out something so obvious might seem a little odd, but over the course of a generation, Sean and Rob have unintentionally fostered the myth of their infallibility by way of their mind-boggling consistency. It’s easy to buy into the hyperbole that surrounds them, but only if you ignore the fact that they’re constantly upending their process to remain as in the dark as possible. After the release of Exai
, the duo spoke a lot about “happy accidents” and the possibilities that come about by running with them. This allowed for seemingly endless creative avenues that weren’t accessible via the rigid approach of albums like Untilted
, but the blank edges of the map may yet have been filled in by elseq
, Autechre’s new, five-part monolith.
Here, Sean and Rob cross any and all sonic terrain with total discretion; where there are new aural phenomena to be found, every fissure, notch, crest and spur is detailed with exactness and patience. Like archaeologists unearthing a relic, they take pleasure in the tedium of brushing each nook and cranny clean. “eastre” of elseq 3
is basically twenty-two minutes of compulsive probing, as a solitary motif is gently tweaked ad infinitum and timbral nuances eventually come to the fore. In a way, the track embraces a “less-is-more” ethos in terms of input while the end product feels like it does anything but. Much of elseq 5
operates along the same wavelength, but the individual tracks are generally more gratifying as far as their presentation goes; “pendulu casual” revels in its sparsity, “spaces how V” and “freulaeux” like to ebb and flow, while “oneum” glistens and dangles. Contrast this with the seemingly impenetrable, globular clusters of sound spewed forth on elseq 1’s
opener – a track that shares the underlying architecture of the aforementioned – and Autechre’s flexibility becomes apparent.
Above all else, what defines elseq
from Autechre’s previous work is diligence – a willingness to flesh out even the tiniest of ideas long after they’d otherwise have been transformed or abandoned in albums gone by. So while it may be difficult to be believe on account of its range, elseq
is more forgiving than anyone could’ve expected. Even “elyc6 0nset” of elseq 2
– a near-half-hour onslaught of mutilated rhythms, soundboard abuse and glitches that seem to cannibalise each other as their world falls apart – is more hypnotic than it is demanding. There’s a catch, though. The album’s accessibility is as much due its broadened content as it is in the way its individual parts are divided. Each is distinct enough to work alone should you feel unlike tackling the whole thing at once, but of course the option is there if you dare. elseq
is a different beast when heard uninterrupted and without distractions, and it will do its best to break you, whether via the arrival of “c7b2” and its warbling percussion or the uncompromised freneticism of elseq 4
as a whole. The rewards for wading through are more than ample, however.
may well be the most ambitious thing Autechre have ever released, so much so that it begs the question, “where are they supposed to go from here"” I’ve personally given up wondering. It seems absurd that two humans could never be exhausted of their creative potential, but the more the idea is entertained, the less ludicrous it becomes. Autechre’s next “happy accident” beckons.