CD Review

Autechre - "Amber"

By Marcus Pan

AmberWhen two people know each other well enough and have been hanging since high school, one of two things will happen. Either they'll drift apart, as friends oft-times do, because one, the other or both begins to follow a different life path. Or, after a while, they will sometimes become so attuned to each other's minds that they're nearly inseparable. When that happens, they will sometimes do something really, really cool together.

The latter is the case with two friends from Sheffield/Yorkshire England. Before they were even out of high school, Sean Booth and Rob Brown were messing around with music. Members of the underground re-mix scene, trading pause-junk mix tapes, the two of them became friends. One day they stumbled into a great deal on some analog equipment. Found and purchased under questionable circumstances, the duo began their music experiments in 1991. A few small labels later they stumbled onto Warp Records - one destined to become a highlight for the upcoming UK-techno scene. Autechre also had a destiny - to be one of the prime acts of this new scene. The word "techno" has always suggested a more riffing style - but Autechre take the computer-driven worlds they create to a more surreal extreme. Where I was expecting noise, I instead got comfort.

Autechre's first release was Incunabala - released in the UK. The first to reach the shores of the US was the 1994 album Amber. More Booth/Brown ambient grooves were put out following Amber, including two releases (Peel Sessions & EP 7) in this year (1999) alone. Their work is stylistically computeresque and ambient-driven. It has a comfortable and soothing sound and snakes through a computerotic soundscape that is completely bereft of any humanistic qualities. Something about the idea of a land (sound/scape/etc.) bereft of human hands is sublimely beautiful to me - we have this nasty tendency of shitting all over whatever we touch when taken as a sociological whole.

AutechreFrom the start of the eleven track Amber release you are mired in a world that is near-infallible, untouched by human hands. The landscape is built of waves of rhythm. Right from the outset Foil takes you on a floating and scraping ride, sliding up and down through clouds of computerized wind. The beat track is muted but there, providing a kind of subconscious tapping. Slip, one of my favorites, is a song that doesn't seem to match with the name. Rather than a sliding sensation like I expected given the name of the track, instead it was a more bouncing style with hops and skips through a weird and flowing place. The longest track here, at 10:07, is the dreamy song called Further. This one is very slow, breezy and controlled. The ticking electronics throughout it are something to be heard - and seen if you care to close your eyes.

Indeed Amber is an old release for me to be reviewing right now, being circa 1994 and all that. But it was the first of Autechre's work I happened to slip in the player. The work is beautiful and surreal - which is a comforting change compared to other harder-riffing "techno" that I've listened to in the past. Infallible, tightly controlled and soothing - Brown and Booth take us to a perfect place where no grime of humanity has stained the landscape.

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