Music Reviews

Autechre Quaristice

(Warp) Rating - 6/10

Warp Records may not have lost its status as a guarantee of quality, but the stylistic guarantees that used to come with the label are arguably the stuff of history these days. After all, their biggest commercial success has come via some jittery post-punk, while the rosiest critical spoils have gone to some lunatic math-jazz, and two of the stable's finest hopes are channelling performers as diverse as Stevie Wonder and My Bloody Valentine. Where, then, are all the mercurial men doing things prohibited by the Geneva convention to their machinery and naming the results after bad hands at Scrabble?

Oh, here they are. It must be said, though, that, for their first album in three years, Autechre have launched proceedings in unusually avuncular fashion, with Altibzz sharing its echoy elasticity and cavernous charm with LFO's Goodnight Vienna, and, pleasingly, there are signs that they've rediscovered the mischievous edge that brought them to our attention via Repetitive Beats a good decade and a half ago. IO, for example, recalls the sharply-observed pastichery of Look Around You, albeit spliced with what we'd like to believe are samples of a robot crocodile, while Perlence appears to be letting mid-90s house slither home in the rain after ripping out its skeleton. Moreover, you can even have a bit of a dance to chenc9 and the bulk of Simmm. Only a bit, mind. They're still not exactly Basement Jaxx.

And, indeed, it really wouldn't be Autechre if they didn't go in now and again for some decidedly difficult listening. Hence the concentrated miasma of sinister Lynchian enigma that is paralelSuns acts as an early prelude to the detached violence of WNSN, and bncCastl bravely takes its amelodic instincts to the most feral extremes available. Furthermore, the album's central brace of Tankakern and rale combine to form a constant stentorian death rattle, and, perhaps most provocatively of all, the admittedly fascinating Fol3 may very well be little more than the pair fighting to keep their washing machine from being swallowed by a black hole.

Most notable, though, is the sense that this is an astonishingly hermetically sealed affair. You'd be hard-pressed, after all, to pinpoint any of the developments in dance music in the last decade at any juncture here (in fact, 90101 - 5 l-l carries on as if psytrance was the next big thing, which hasn't been true since, ooh, one Wednesday in October 1995), and there could definitely have been a little more economy exercised, since, at 20 tracks, Quaristice can occasionally be on the sloggish side. However, there's a lot to admire in such a brazen display of accomplishment, and, while it may not be looking to court the most gushing of affection, this will undoubtedly prove to be one of '08's most singular releases.