Ayo Jegede
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July 25, 2005
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Autechre
Untilted

read the album name.

read it again.

read it again.

Un-TILT-ed.

the history of Autechre is either one of the best jokes of IDM and electronic music as a whole or one of the most underappreciated artistic outputs. if you think the former then you view each of Booth and Brown's releases with deep suspicion, questioning why they would choose to obscure their crisp rhythms and dance proclivities with industrial romps and clangs. you may even contest that they basically take a nice hip-hop beat and dress it turbidly with wank sludge instrumentals, a reductive if not tempting conclusion. but if you're of the latter opinion, Autechre's putative lack of creative mettle and nerve is all but correct. if you're like me then the revelation of their latest album's title was both humorous and deft.

my guess has always been that they've been relenting somewhat on their prior releases, keeping subdued a fantastic, pitchshifting opus that they understood would flummox even the most stalwart IDM afficionado. ab ovo they've always come out to please before challenge, with an album like Incunabula sounding hardly abstruse at all. yet their progress has been informative, their daring play with patterns and sound coming at the experience of the listener. each subsequent release was met with both appreciation and befuddlement initially, but anyone who has listened to Tri Repetae++ would say it's more complex than complicated; more nuanced than noisy. the same realization will emerge for Untilted.

i will say that there is a standard progression in place for each song, perhaps to give the listener a directional reference, and when it's revealed it doesn't blunt their performance. the overlapping (yet amply audible) and celeritous drum breaks that begin 'LCC' are eventually overlapped by others, intersecting and extracting themselves with impressive cleanliness. it does sound like bedlam at first, an indiscernible and indiscriminate appendage flailing with strange metered energy. "what is that?!" but listen closer and you can hear the accelerated rhythms with profound clarity. it may require a bit of patience for the revelation to hit, but when it does the entire outlay of the track is perfectly visible until--about 3/4 of the way through--the song opens to reveal its fundamental break beat. this is a game.

somtimes they'll feign instrumental sobriety, like on 'Pro Radii,' reeling you in with their taiko-steeped bass drum or 'Iera' with its deceptively simple drum progression. in both instances they essay to reveal the basic pattern first then riddle it with queer signatures and atonal samples, darkening them to see if you'll remember what they sound like at the songs' conclusions. the motif is relaxed near the end of the album, however. 'Fermium's' use of high-pitched, perfectly audible metal samples is what one could say typifies an Autechre release, and 'The Trees' hardly pulls any punches, maintaining the same rhythm until the end. the revelation of orbiting beats and widened signatures makes all of the songs enthralling, building expectation for you to find the ball first.

this isn't a passive listen, of course. none of their albums ever is (or at least upon their release). but it's not of a smug, condescending vein that IDM is usually portrayed as, the musicians holed up in some locker figuring out the best way to create complexity from sterling silver. Untilted is Autechre peeling back another layer of their entangled, but still decipherable, montage, one that still has many more to be revealed. it'll require your full attention, but only the worthy games ever do.

Release date: April 19, 2005
Label: Warp
Rating: 8.1 / 10

[RMR]