Autechre Untilted Review

Album. Released 2005.  

BBC Review

Untilted marks a new form of frenetic starkness...

Colin Buttimer 2002

With the lowest of warning rumbles "LCC" launches forward like a rocket-propelled train on dangerously uneven track. The track's structure, streamlined to facilitate maximum forward momentum, communicates a sense of great urgency. "LCC" might be a study in entropy: by its close the tempo has slowed to a trudge, weighed down by drowsy, quavering synthetic tones. The initial velocity of both this first track and its successor, "Ipacial Section", recalls Jungle's urgency circa 1992/93, except that the ruffneck attitude of yore is here extruded into a parallel universe, viral rhythms unfolding in a fractal rapidity that mutates inexorably.

The opening section of "Pro Radii" displays a condensed textural fascination that's closer to Untilted's immediate predecessors. The momentary sliver of a rapper's exclamation grounds the enterprise in Autechre's hiphop roots, even though the music accelerates away into bitmapped canyons and everglades. "Augmatic Disport" pummels the listener repeatedly with concentrated beats which act as brief regulating grids between subsections that rapidly coil and uncoil in full claustrophobic effect. The result is simultaneously nightmarish and exhilarating.

If one of the primary concerns of Autechre's previous release, Draft 7.30, was texture, Untilted is very much fascinated with rhythm and metamorphosis. It also marks a further waystation in the rejection of melody in favour of a percussive (hyper)activity. This has seen the group gradually simplify their melodies until they appeared strangely out of place paired with the complexity of their rhythmic and textural experimentation. This stripping away prompts a sense of lack and a concommitant uncertainty that makes Untilted initially difficult to assimilate. Given persistent listening, however, an unsuspected sense of logic gradually reveals itself.

Untilted marks a new form of frenetic starkness that might be compared to Alva Noto's output, except that Autechre's sound is less clinical and more viscerally muscular. It succeeds in challenging, frustrating and exciting while conveying a sense of teemingly intense vitality. The eighth and final track, "Sublimit", underlines this. At 15.52 minutes it may just be the longest track Autechre have released. It's also arguably the most pared down and variegated composition the group have produced.

Untilted may test many listeners yet again, some will applaud it as a return to what Autechre does best, others deplore it for its rejection of whatever they perceive as the group's core values. As with every previous release, the fascination lies in the music's singularity and its continuing challenge, surely a result of the duo's fastidious single-mindedness. Check.

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