Monday, April 14, 2008
On recommendation from Tyler I attended an Autechre show at the Abbey Pub last Friday, and true to his words it was a "wall of abstract sound". It was wonderfully perplexing, like dueling schizophrenic robots, or maybe a robot going insane. Layers of pulsating mechanical rhythms shifting and alternating, like machines trying to become human. Battlestar Galactica fans know what I'm talking about. In accordance with concert protocol, Autechre came on after (dj) Rob Hall and Massonix. Rob Hall was fabulous, rocking the scatterbrain idm we all know and love. Massonix, despite his elder status in the electronic music world, was bland and boring. The first two acts tenderized the crowd with deafening idm, which varies in form but maintaings semblance to the beats and rhythms of rave, house, hip hop, dub and blues. This is groove based music that inspires dancing and a basic feeling of social togetherness. But some forms of idm, particularly the downtempo (Boards of Canada) sort are more geared for the heads. To my knowledge the term 'heads' gained popularity from a KRS One song where he askes "how many real hip hop heads are in the house". A "Head" is now used to describe the listener who plays close attention to the structure of of beats, a kind of minimalism. Intelligent Dance Music, despite the pretensive name is an accurate description. It exists somewhere in between the mental rational realm and the physical, emotive and corporeal realm. IDM in the Aphex Twin tradition makes some attempt at song structure, with the hooks and riffs that engages your humanist side while synthetic chattering textures and microprogrammed drums transform you into Galvitron. After a good hour/hour in a half of Rob Halls' survey of contemporary electronic music (the past 20 years), Autechre's set was a complete reversal. I want to say it was void of all aspects that makes music feel like it is complimentary to our daily lives, or what I've been referring to as humanist. But Autechre is not void of humanism, they start from a place that is purely anti-humanist. Repetative, machine-like, an automated factory, this is where Autechre begins, but they end up with Skynet. The gears and precision and machine noises begin to alternate, with a sense of intuitive logic and irrationality. The sound of becoming a humanist. I've been listening to Autechre for several years now, in fact I just checked their discography and I've heard every album they have put out. My experience with Autechre songs is more on the lines of - an attempt to listen - I usually fail. One song at a time is all I can take. Autechre live is radically different, being engulfed by the volume and experiencing the music with your body rather than only your ears. highly recommended.
Read a more informed review on Milk Factory.