Autechre - Oversteps

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  • Autechre doesn't stand in anyone's shadow. I doubt I need to tell most of RA's readership why Rob Brown and Sean Booth's work is both important and widely acclaimed, nor why it's sometimes been harshly criticized. Brown and Booth have created a vast, confounding, often brilliant body of work that spans everything from the relatively gentle, melodic likes of Amber to the generative abstracts of Confield (the latter having a reception and impact within the annals of electronic music akin to the first widely-heard free jazz records). So why does, for example, "os veix3" sound like a lost remix from Aphex Twin's Ventolin EP? The similarity isn't necessarily in compositional terms (although with artists as protean as Autechre and Aphex, it's hard to say what would qualify on that count), it's about the actual sounds being used. That hissing, those faraway synthesized tones, that arrhythmic percussion—surely we've heard these before? The sensation recurs again and again when you listen to Oversteps: "d-sho qub" suddenly comes on like a Plaid track with more aggressive beats; the combination of squealing and deep bell-like tones on "known(1)" is like a more abrasive example of Mike Paradinas' work circa Royal Astronomy; I could swear I've heard the fuzzy, foreboding opening of "Treale" somewhere before (a video game?); and the closing "Yuop" makes for an impressively glacial, ...I Care Because You Do-esque exit. Mind you, it's not as if those guys have never sounded faintly like Autechre in their turn. But while drawing on the rich wellspring of what's come before is perfectly acceptable and even laudable in everything from disco to rock, IDM (or whatever we're calling it these days) has long had a fetish for the new, the futuristic, the unique. Autechre have certainly contributed their fair share of head-spinning, "what was THAT"? moments, but Booth and Brown don't owe their listeners that kind of puritanical focus. Oversteps isn't regressive, nostalgic or unimaginative; I'm tempted to call it classicist, but it's a world away from a bar band playing the Stones. Autechre have always been a group that's demanded more trust from listeners than most, especially during the years when their music verged on sterile academicism (Confield is a great record, but people who loved it on first listen are few and far between); this album, with its impeccable production and surprisingly forthright melodies, is merely the most visceral reminder in years of why that trust is warranted. It does, however, share one major weakness with all Autechre albums: it's too bloody long. Oversteps is "only" 71 minutes, and the track times split the difference between the old epics and Quaristice's fragments, but no matter how compelling each of these tracks are, they get exhausting when you're wading through the bracing, forbidding length of it all. As a result, Oversteps is yet another admirable Autechre album that has a truly great forty or so minutes lurking somewhere within its alien contours.
  • Tracklist
      01. r ess 02. ilanders 03. known(1) 04. pt2ph8 05. qplay 06. see on see 07. Treale 08. os veix3 09. O=0 10. d-sho qub 11. st epreo 12. redfall 13. krYlon 14. Yuop