This massive body of work from Autechre – four hours of music! – boosts their reputation even further as adventurers in the sonic world. They are continuing to develop as an incredibly powerful unit, capable of delivering short, sharp shocks – or massive, sprawling structures that still somehow make sense. For this to happen a good deal of commitment is required on the part of the listener, but rest assured it is all well worth it across the space of these five connected albums. The uncompromising start with ‘feed1’ shows the sharp timbres and heavy if irregular kick drum that are two of many features of the duo’s work, but there is a softer side too, felt most keenly in the fifth part of the odyssey. At times there is a rhythmic playfulness – albeit with straight faces – where the percussion section seems to be set up as a game of irregular table tennis between different frequencies.
Highlights include the superb ‘13×0 step’, carrying a threatening bass but with snippets of block chords, while ‘onset’ is a huge piece, more sound and texture than pitch, but endlessly fascinating as it moves. Contrast this with tracks like ‘chimer’ and ‘foldfree casual’, the ideal complements with their rich and often sharp treble tones. Quite how Autechre conceive some of their soundscapes is beyond me, for they continue to push sonic boundaries in an exciting way – sometimes relying on pitch but often using timbre as the most important element. They can use very basic musical figures – ‘eastre’ is wholly dominated by a two chord progression that gets big sonic variables as it moves through 20+ minutes – or very complicated ones, with rhythms that kick about your headspace. Through it all their music is incredibly compelling, the listener endlessly fascinated as to where their music and minds are heading next. They remain one of the most important acts in electronic music today.