Autechre: Exai (CD, Warp, February 2013)

Shortly after buying this, I got an email saying that they’d discovered a glitch in the 24-bit WAV download of the track T ess xi. I’m afraid to say, my reaction echoed that of Dorothy Parker on hearing of the death of Calvin Coolidge: how can they tell? (I say this from a place of love.)

The first thing to notice about Exai is that it is a little over two hours long. As is their habit, Rochdale’s finest reject anything approximating a traditional structure, and make countless abrupt changes in direction, with a logic so skewed that it’s pretty much indistinguishable from chance. Consequently, I find it pretty much impossible to take in this album as a whole: it works as a kind of immersive experience, but I can’t put it into words. For the purposes of these notes, therefore, I’m going to employ a kind of critical synecdoche, and talk about just one track: for no particular reason, I’m opting for irlite (get 0). So. It starts with a kind of backwards-funky bass squelch, in which the rhythm drops out moments before the resolution. There is an extended glitch work-out, which (as I have remarked of their work before) seems to be the opposite of propulsive, an assemblage of elements where somehow everything lags behind everything else. There seems to be more low-end than Autechre have had in a while: I find myself wondering whether they are actually being a tiny bit on-trend here? Halfway through, everything fades away to leave a hollow ringing tone. We get an alternate version of the intro again. And then, lo and behold, we get something which is undeniably a melody. Somewhere in the distance, creeping out between those rumbling polyrhythms there’s a little lost ’80s synth pop tune, quite cheerfully going about it’s business. And then, ten minutes in, and without warning, it stops. And the next track starts. Well, I’m not sure that made sense, but somehow I can’t help coming back to listen to it over and over again, so it must be doing something right.

I bought this from Bleep.

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