November 29, 2001

Ed's Underground

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Considered by many to be one of the more caustic and aggressive acts grouped under the questionably-named “intelligent dance music” genre, Autechre obviously don’t make the most accessible music. Nor is this EP — their second contribution to John Peel’s UK radio program — their easiest to get into. Instead, this half-hour disc finds the duo of Sean Booth and Rob Brown exploring the most alien and unique electronic realms in their continuing quest for inhumanity in music.

The opener, “Gelk,” is the closest the duo comes to accessibility here. Starting with a tinkling, vaguely piano-like melody, the song slowly gains layers of chirping percussion and robotic blips. Still, it remains lovely and soothingly ambient throughout, with little to suggest the chaos to follow on the next three tracks.

“Blifil” begins with a grinding, repetitive quasi-rhythm of static and skittering drums as hints of sinister melody percolate cheerily in the background. The track’s surface doesn’t seem to change much over the course of its 7 minutes, but subtle rhythmic variations and the periodic addition and switching out of new elements make this a hypnotic and endlessly fascinating composition.

On “Gaekwad,” the pair cuts back somewhat from the sonic battering ram of “Blifil.” The track uses a simple, childlike melody to striking effect. The ringing, xylophone-like notes providing a striking contrast to the bursts of static and rumbling drum beats that lurk in the piece’s underground.

Finally, “19 Headaches” finds the band unleashing a hyperactive barrage of jackhammer beats, punctuated by shards of icy melodies. This album is obviously not for everyone — and my descriptions alone probably sent most running for their mommies — but those who do engulf themselves in Autechre’s twisted world will surely not regret it.

Archived article by Ed Howard