Some 14 years after forming, Sean Booth and Rob Brown’s starship Autechre is still plowing through the intergalactic cosmos with the washing machine on “spin-dry” all the way. Untilted is as completely uncompromising record as any the duo have made – eight tracks of frenetic to languid otherworldly noise with not even the hint of a “traditional” song in the soundscape.
If electronic music ever signed the way to a space-age trip around the galaxy accompanied by robots, supernovas and encounters with alien beings from who knows where, Autechre’s latest bloopy dabble would be its standard-bearer. If electronic music was ever dance music, the three-legged green scaly prancer with seven eyes and eight antennae in the corner of the room would be delighted, but bipeds should be cautioned – dancing to this album could render limbs unusable.
This eighth full album gets going with the first five-minute slice of machine-head noise, LCC, and cranks up the pace with Ipacial Section. By now, listeners will either be agog with appreciation or tearing their hair out at having to tune in to each of these electronic extravaganzas, not one of which is shorter than five minutes.
Shut your eyes listening to Pro Radii and quickly images of an intergalactic war will form in the mind, bombs dropping, spaceships careering across the skies, lasers firing from all sides of the mix and all manner of bangs, bleeps and electrobarfs ping-ponging to and fro. After eight minutes, there are echoes of Aphex Twin‘s ambience, effects that serve a calming influence over earlier frenetics.
Augmatic Disport should be set as a music exam piece. Whoever guesses the time signature(s) wins a lifesize cardboard cut-out of Captain James T Kirk. There goes our three-legged green friend again…
Iera offers something close to a melodic bass riff line under the white noise parps. The threat of a tune is short-lived, however – not for Autechre the singalong electronica of Suicide. The nearest they come is with Fermium, a metronomic nod-along piece that’s been gracing Warp Records’ home page of late. It starts out as essentially one phrase of two notes and a range of semi-percussive tone-free parts looped for about three minutes, before slewing off into chilled out noise land again, but it isn’t easily banished to the nether regions of the mind.
The Trees (presumably these particular plants were made of steel) gets all loopy too, again threatening to turn into something danceable before ambling back to the abstract somewhere to the left of Aphex. Sublimit, the album closer, dares to stretch to over 15 minutes – but by now you’ll know if you want to listen to all of it.
Indeed, Untilted is emphatically not an album for everyone. It’s easy to admire the duo’s trailblazing lack of compromise and this record’s (artificial?) intelligence, but for anyone not three-legged or immersed in the electronic scene it could prove tough going.
Yet for those prepared to give it a go and listen to (if you like) the bits between the bits, there are patterns of a sort to be discerned. Immediate it is not but, like the title – yes, it has one! – Untilted rewards a closer than usual examination.