The Ae Ritual

So I got the two most recent Autechre albums in my last big haul. I recall that when Tri Repetae came out, I had just started to really get them, after the Anti-ep, Amber, Garbage and Anil Vapre had really made an impression (the earlier stuff is not as consistent IMO). I had invested a lot of time and energy into learning their music, when I’d clearly not come from the same musical roots. Electro was a foreign thing to me, intentionally thwarting the steadyness I typically gravitated towards. But between the GPR and AI stuff of the time, I started to catch on. Even when it didn’t always have immediate appeal, I knew it would be music that would be worth the time required to get acquainted.

So Tri Repetae came out, and I rushed home from the store, slapped on my headphones, laid down in bed with the lights off, and let it roll. I couldn’t believe the result. The first 7 tracks were so intense I had to stop, and revisit the rest later. I needed a smoke, and couldn’t even finish the album. I don’t know that any other album has ever made such an impact on me so fast, which really took me by surprise after my past reactions. To this day, those first seven songs really stand out in my mind as being about as good as their 7 other best songs.

After that, with Keynell, that Gescom thing on Clear, En Vain, Chiastic Slide, EP5 and LP7, I always found one stand-out track and a few other goodies, but I was never sold on the whole thing. And on each of these there was one track with some of the most amazing melodies I’ve heard. They also busted out a few remixes in this time, like of Soft Ballet Forms and that one on !K7, which really hit the spot. But like I was saying, something of the album/ep coherence was lost. By and large I only revisited specific tracks.

Then I lost track of them for a while. When I first laid hands on Confield and Draft 7.30, I couldn’t bring myself to put them on, partly for fear of squashed expectations, and partly because I wanted to allow myself the opportunity to ingest them with patience and relaxation. I finally got through most of the other records last weekend, and Sunday afternoon I pulled up the bean bag into the Circle 5’s sweet spot, moved an ash tray over and filled my glass of water, preparing for two hours of attentive listening.

I’m not going to go into the content itself much since it’s all been covered already, and it’s old news really, but I have to note that Confield really holds together well as an album. What a treat it was to have such amazing sound right in my face. Such an improvement over listening in headphones! To my surprise, there was no stand-out track, but I liked them all even if no single track elevated me to the heights of some of my earlier favorites.

Thankfully, Draft 7.30 rediscovers melody towards the end of the album. But while I can conceptually appreciate their new directions, the noise to melody ratio is a bit lopsided for me, and those songs near the end with the great melodies that I look for tend to devolve into goo before I’m done enjoying where it was at. Sure, that’s the point, but it just doesn’t cut it for me. Oh, and what’s up with the flanger abuse on the first track? Eeew. I don’t want to rail on the whole thing because there are some very fine moments, and some really cool innovation. I’ll be sure to give it some more listens before pronouncing final judgement. Maybe I just need to gear up for a learning process again? It would be unfair not to give them the same benefit of the doubt that I did in the past. Or maybe I should give Confield some time to sink in before I try to leap four years into the future.

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