It’s hard to overstate how singular Autechre sound.
Superficially, you can tag the duo of Rob Brown and Sean Booth with the same IDM/leftfield techno label as LFO, Plaid, Aphex Twin, The Black Dog, Venetian Snares, u-Ziq and the like, but more accurately, they operate within a genre of their own making. They seem to obey a kind of Heisenberg principle: attempts to define and categorise them render them ever more slippery and elusive. That distinctiveness goes some way in explaining why most Autechre records don’t sound dated. They aren’t alone in making heavy use of the aqueous MC-202 synth, samplers and, most important of all, the fleshy thump of the Roland TR-606, but they are truly brilliant technicians, wringing all manner of alien sounds from their gear as if programming it to within an inch of its life.
Suitably eclectic DJ mixes provide an insight into Autechre’s pool of influences, from acid house to electro, techno, kosmische, hip-hop, experimental and ambient. Their FACT mix for instance blends krautrock by Tangerine Dream, Bernard Parmegiani’s musique concrète and death metal by Necrophagist with underground hip-hop by Percee P, J Dilla and Black Milk, and their twelve-hour mix for Percussion Lab is even more ambitious, splicing Boyd Rice and 808 State with Surgeon, Ultra Magnetic MCs and Coil. Autechre’s output is similarly expansive. Though it seems crass to complain, their lack of economy is arguably their greatest weakness, and even the most rabid fan wouldn’t disagree that their vast discography of eleven long studio albums and several album-length EPs could benefit from a trim. As well as their Warp releases – which over twenty years have contributed significantly to the label’s identity – Autechre have released a number of remixes for the likes of Stereolab and Tortoise, and Booth and Brown are also part of the experimental Gescom collective. Still, a little patience with their discography is amply rewarded. Autechre’s records are seldom anything short of fascinating – and quite unlike anything else.
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