Autechre, double outlets – Culture / Next

We call it poptimism: an aberration of our time where the listener, thanks to the Internet, could finally appreciate everything according to the same criteria and his only sensitivity, the latest Taylor Swift, the reissue of a rarity of Congolese rumba for years 70 and a piece of electronic music recorded in Darmstadt in 1960. Whether or not we believe in the benefits of this burst of a disconnected taste, the simple fact that we can consider that Autechre – veteran electronic duo and resolute emblem of research made art – still participates in pop music as it is in 2020, is a miracle to be put to the credit of this duo and their enormous work, which has been described as autarkic and detached from fashion, in reality in perpetual dialogue with the worst and the best of times she has passed through.


In fact, it is undoubtedly the will of the English Sean Booth and Rob Brown to “participate” in their time which best explains SIGN and PLUS, their form, their mood and the strange circus of their arrival in the world, the first announced a month beforehand, the second tumbled without warning twelve days later, as if to come to shake up all the critical certainties that we had been able to build. Because beyond the double game allowed by this double release, we are dealing with two albums in the traditional sense of the term, in itself an artistic compromise from Autechre, which have repeatedly declared their desire to free themselves from the temporal limits of LP / CD format and including recent Elseq 1-5 (2016) and NTS Sessions (2018) lasted four and eight hours, respectively.

Also the two albums extend the other ambition of these last two fabulous animals to stick to less progressive and more vertical compositions, compressed inside more compendious proposals, which gives the impression of a desire to squared simplification. So SIGN, past its opening in the form of a machine of bones and rubber emerged from the sands, has the air of an ice palace, with, at least in the foreground, cascades of synthetic notes as we had not heard since the beloved Oversteps (2010). A step aside, which will better allow neophytes and refractory to a music which is after all immensely original and complex, to appreciate its always disheveled lyricism, but will not fail to disappoint those, more committed, who follow with passion for the exponential expansion of their universe, where the notions of rhythms, noises and melodies merge a little more into each other with each of their disc in the form of a stage point.


PLUS, with the three monsters x4 (twelve minutes), TM1 open (eleven) and ecol4 (almost a quarter of an hour) as a foundation, is more playful, energetic and juicy, like a remedy for the naked beauty of SIGN, even if it seems certain that the two albums, twins by the number of letters in their title and their circled artwork, were designed in parallel, with the same software machinery, this famous hyper-versatile system designed by Booth and Brown themselves to to comply with the least of their wills. But it seems above all acquired that these two wonders released at the same time, by the same pipes, as albums by Bruce Springsteen or Ariana Grande, will separate the pros and cons, since they each create, perhaps in reaction the one to the other, their own exclusive rules, grooves, harmonies, senses and misinterpretations of the beautiful – and of the ugly too.

Olivier Lamm

Autechre SIGN and PLUS (Warp).


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