It’s Untilted. Let’s just get that clear from the start. It’s not Untitled. Okay, good. I’m glad we’re all following that. Yes, it will confuse some but you know now so you’ve no excuse. I’ll continue…

Untilted is the 8th studio album from Sheffield-via-Manchester boys and electronica/IDM/call-it-what-you-will stalwarts Sean Booth and Rob Brown, together known as Autechre. As with most of their output over the past 14 years it is a piece of work that is minimal yet complex and which requires many listens before you start to fully appreciate the fractured rhythms and subtle sounds swirling in and out of the mix. I remember when I was younger and I first tried a pint of Guinness. I thought it was awful stuff. Nowadays I probably couldn’t live without it (but that’s another story). This is how it is for me with Autechre. Initially you have to persevere, but once you’re inside you wonder how you ever thought that you didn’t like this and wouldn’t get into it. That’s the beauty of Autechre: their work is not immediate or instantly accessible. Your mum will call it noise.

This latest offering slips even further into the freeform, structureless soundscapes that filled their fifth album, LP5, in 1998. There are eight tracks here, only two of which come in at under 7 minutes in length whilst closer Sublimit just falls short of 16 minutes. They invite you to explore, search and unravel the layers. It’s like a film with plots and subplots all of which you just can’t take in in the first sitting. You need to play it over and over again to catch all the bits you missed the first few times.

Opener LCC pulls no punches and has you up against the ropes from the start with hyperactive rhythms and spooky undercurrents of synth drifting around in the distance before mellowing into something altogether more friendly and warming. Then, as you’re lulled into a false sense of security, Ipacial Sectionsmacks you in the face once more with industrial clangs and buzzes being stretched and distorted in all directions. Robotic bleeps and zaps then gatecrash the party and spike the punch bowl.

Each track evolves and tells its own little story. Fermium is the sound of little robots chattering amongst themselves in their own little language of boings and blips. It’s something so mechanical and yet so human at the same time. Eventually they slowly wander off to do whatever it is that little robots that speak in boings do when they’re not socialising.

Pro Radii takes you down futuristic motorway tunnels at night, bumping over manhole covers and cats-eyes, rumbling over the tarmac. Your imagination wanders in the gloom and the lights of the night world while miles from your destination.

The album as a whole makes up an even more complex journey through alien lands and by track seven, The Trees, you’re in a synthetic rainforest where the water splashes like fiery sparks from an acetylene torch and a metal microcosm stutters about its daily toil with fluttering wings and pattering legs.

Elsewhere wonky shapes melt over demented percussion and then stop for breath before turning themselves inside out and launching themselves straight back at your ears.

Always stark and uncompromising. Always important. Autechre follow no trends and make the sounds that they want to make. Untilted shows again why Autechre are so revered and that’s as it should be. They do things their way.

Packaged in typically minimal and stylish Autechre and Warp fashion, you get the cover, the CD and the track details. That’s it. This isn’t about giving you lush booklets full of concept artwork. This is about the music, pure and simple. You don’t need your eyes for this, just your ears and your head. And your imagination.

Play it loud in the dark.

Untilted (2005)

Genre: Electronica
Record Label: Warp

Pixelsurgeon Verdict

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