Music critics are often characterised with the most negative of clichés. Infamous tales abound; of turning up for one track and basing a whole review on it, of using extensive vocabulary to lust after a singer’s cheekbones, leaving aside any mention of the musical output.
So applaud, if you will, the dedication necessary to wander the streets of east London at near midnight on a freezing Tuesday evening, in the hope of happening upon that most traditional setting for live music that is… a car park.
Conventional it isn’t. Unconventionality is a theme that continues throughout Autechre‘s first UK outing in three years. It comes with the expectation of a unique experience, as well as the chance to hear Rob Brown and Sean Booth’s ninth opus Quaristice in a live setting.
Sheffield’s cult favourites SND attempt to set the evening off on the right foot, but their minimal electro isn’t enough to hold the attention of most. They’d be hypnotic after a hedonistic night out, but the intensity is lost here.
Observers would be forgiven for thinking Autechre have set themselves out to lose here. The Warp mainstays opt to stand to the far right of the platform that serves as a stage, ensuring a good half of the audience won’t be able to see a thing. This move is underlined when, upon their grace onto stage, any sort of lighting that had been provided was cut, essentially meaning the crowd were in total darkness.
It shouldn’t work. But while the lack of any visual stimulation would deter some in this environment (the lighting being as big a part of the show as the music in some electronic gigs), if nothing else this forces the crowd to focus on the music, each beat and each rhythm being accounted for.
Much like the almost excruciatingly minimal artwork that accompanies their ninth long-player Quaristice they, in essence, strip down the conventions of the live music experience and tell the audience: This is what you should be focusing on. Nothing else should matter. Most artists would see such behaviour result in them falling flat on their face, but with so much going on within every layer that is laid down, the need to want to hear more is unavoidable. The small reflection of the duo’s shadows in the wall behind them are the only physical appearance that is made all evening, but the euphoric response given from the audience speaks volumes in terms of deeming this test of conventions a massive success.