- Autechre shake off context like water from a rain slicker. Their music has grown impenetrable, and since 2011's Oversteps it has arrived in increasingly large lumps of obtuse sound. First came 2013 double-album Exai, which messily referenced all eras of the UK duo's career, alternately brilliant and frustrating. Last year, they dropped a collection of hour-long live recordings with all the ceremony of someone donating a bag full of secondhand clothes.
Now there's elseq 1-5. Less than a week after unveiling the rancorous monster "feed1," Autechre premiered another track on an Alaskan student radio station, before quietly slipping out their new album—if "album" is even the word for it. elseq 1-5 is a five-part, four-hour-plus marathon that defies categorization as stubbornly as the music on it. No matter how it's classified, one thing is certain: it's among the most uncompromising, impressive and enjoyable collections released by Rob Brown and Sean Booth.
elseq 1-5 begins with "feed1," 11 minutes of thunderous sound that evokes tectonic plates shifting. It's among the heaviest things in the Autechre discography, and a warning shot of sorts. Much of the music that follows is unfriendly, greyscale and usually without much in the way of structure. It's all long, too, with a good number of tracks hovering around ten minutes and three of them breaking 20 minutes. Those three are baffling, but they're also enticing. "elyc6 onset" is 27 minutes of elaborate fiddling, loaded with sound that shudders and wobbles like organic matter. Its prickly cousin "mesh cinereaL" requires patience: it journeys through frazzled beats that eventually open into a bright, Oversteps-style melodic section, before being blown apart by squalls of mechanic noise. Best of the trio is "eastre," an unusually patient drone piece that recalls Stars Of The Lid before Booth and Brown start poking holes in their beautiful tapestry.
There are some grappling points between Autechre's slippery surfaces and shifting sands. "latentcall" slips into an electro pattern in its second half, while the broken beats of "c16 deep tread" hint at the duo's love of hip-hop. Pleasant tones and poignant melodies pop up in "foldfree casual," and "spaces how V" is distantly pretty, calling back to early Autechre. That track and the rest of elseq 5's closing section might attract old fans disenchanted by Autechre's fascination with the algorithmic and inhuman. They're only a small part of a very large whole, however, a whole that includes the staticky slog of "c7b2" and the hectic fluctuations of "7th slip."
The elephant in the room is that elseq 1-5 is four hours and eight minutes long—even the staunchest Autechre fans are unlikely to listen in one sitting. But the five-part sequencing (with each package available to purchase separately) perhaps shows that it wasn't intended to be listened to all at once. It's a collection that seems intent on moving beyond the need for conventional formats: you could jump in at any point, or put it on shuffle, and have as an enriching an experience as listening to it linearly.
Warp announced that they don't plan on releasing elseq 1-5 physically. Considering that Autechre is an iconic group whose fans snatch up everything with their name on it, that's a big deal. elseq 1-5 exists only as a data dump. It's the kind of position that Autechre have been heading towards since they blended composition and randomization, traded melody and meter for mathematics, and started making bigger and bigger projects. elseq 1-5 moves without rhyme or reason, and resists whatever narrative you might want to put on it. Four hours of dense, bewildering and occasionally fun electronic music, elseq 1-5 is a logical next step into the unknown for two pioneers.
02. c16 deep tread
03. 13x0 step
04. pendulu hv moda
01. elyc6 0nset
02. chimer 1-5-1
03. mesh cinereaL
02. foldfree casual
04. artov chain
05. 7th slip
01. pendulu casual
03. spaces how V