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Autechre - Untilted

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Artist: Autechre

Album: Untilted

Label: Warp

Review date: Jun. 28, 2005

It’s impossible to deny that Autechre’s eighth full-length is a partial retreat from the ear-splitting assault and hyper-complex rhythmic abstractions on 2000’s Confield. Untilted’s sound is warmer and rounder, but at the expense of sonic and rhythmic scope, initially a disappointment. It’s nice to report, though, that repeated auditions expose a new tightness in composition.

The new approach is not, however, readily apparent; “LCC”’s largely predictable and offputting old-school beats don't bode well, and the entrance of some stereotypically banal melodic material makes matters worse. That all changes on the third track, “Pro Radii,” a sudden and complete turnaround. The soundworld opens up with thunderous multilayered beats perfectly quantized with enough subtle variation in volume to retain spontaneity. As this alien landscape morphs into more “electronic” territory, vocal samples begin to emerge from inside the beats, impeccably placed and perfectly timed. While earlier Autechre tracks are undoubtedly sterile, this one engenders some real fear by contrasting the acoustic with unrecognizable lyrics. The monster beats eventually retreat, some orchestral chords ascend and the duo's hedonistic sensibilities start to shine through. Far from kitschy or campy, the transition is both appropriate and moving, shedding new light on the opening tracks; when more crumpled and shredded beats snap back into play, they sound even fresher and more radical than before. “Pro Radii” crumbles into a halo of dust, but it’s made its point.

The 15-minute long “sublimmit” is the perfect closer to the disc as it encapsulates the groups sublimated approach and newly perfected handling of long-form composition. Yet, even this track quietly astonishes as some blatantly '80s snare and synth patches pop out of the woodwork. Is the duo parodying earlier efforts, or is this just another level of deconstruction? Tempting propositions, but above all, what sounded unfortunately “retro” at the outset is just plain fun by the end of the disc. Untilted is successful because it provides new perspective on a group whose work is so often presumed as anything but.

By Marc Medwin

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