Review: Autechre

26 June 2018

“The Gods are in front of us,” my friend puts his palms on his cheeks trying to hide an embarrassed-blush. It was Autechre setting up the stage, before they turned off the lights and played in total darkness.

Sensory deprivation tanks are intensely dark; that when you open your eyes, you’d think you still have your eyelids shut. Despite the Croxton being more fitting as a place for brawl fights, these vibes didn’t matter as much once the place was darkened. In the absence of light, concepts of time and space disappeared. I also forgot that I was in a music venue with a room packed with bodies, only aware when people swiped up their phones, lighting up their faces.

From Myspace days to the now, these masterminds of soundwaves, consisting of Rob Brown and Sean Booth, brought a long and ever-evolving sonic journey since 1987. Looking around the venue: white middle-aged men dressed in black, standing still, not dancing and smiling. That’s the niche crowd the electronic duo attracted—serious electronic dudes.

To claim that Autechre is music for “complex minds” or to acclaim that listening to Autechre is a personality trait finds a place only on r/iamverysmart. However, Autechre’s improvisation set at the Croxton presents an auditory experience that is not easily digestible. Listening to their session at a surface level, I found myself spacing out. But as I weirdly prick up my ears, what initially seemed like incomprehensible music sequences transformed to an intelligently-composed audio trip. Their live show was a methodological, analytical, scientific and mathematical manipulation of sound palettes to create mosaics. Autechre required close and careful listening to unlock a certain auditory door.

There would be an assumption that this unique sound architecture made by Autechre would trigger an ASMR. This is a fallacy as listening to Autechre was more like a session of powerful stimulation that comes within, from inside the brain. My mind was revolving like a Rubik’s cube, attuned to what Autechre produced. Bodies hardly moved like in an industrial warehouse rave. Most songs on the radio are for easy listening but Autechre exhausts mental energy in ebbs and flows. Despite their thick analogue of intertwining sounds that stems from a dark place, but both producers seemed isolated from it. No emotions were jarringly revealed.

In a space where visual stimulations are put to a minimal level, trying to conjure images to the sounds is an unconscious one. Autechre’s music was odd yet somehow, organic, seemingly presenting themselves as the sounds of the world around us- the sounds of fluid moving in a mitochondrion matrix, and metal bars communicating. This review is difficult to write, because trying to put Autechre’s music into words and abstractions may confine their endless vastness and expansiveness of digital soundscapes. As the duo met through the Manchester graffiti scene, I can’t help but think that they’re Banksy in the electronic world.

Although I later found out that some left halfway through the gig because the sounds were “muddy” and people were talking at the back, I had the best experience standing right at the front. It was hard to dance to their music but at times my body moved naturally to the flow of their music like underwater basket-weaving. A spirituality only experienced-when one disorients in the darkness.

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