Thursday, February 25, 2010

Review of Autechre "Oversteps"

If there’s one thing I can say about Autechre fans upon hearing their new album Oversteps, and all prior fakes that made their way around the internet, is that they are the most confused and inconsistent bunch of fans in the entire world. I have yet to find a single artist that polarizes even its own fans as much as Autechre. But for awhile, there were at least two major camps; Camp 1 loved everything pre 96, when they were less abstract and more ‘melodic’. Camp 2 loved everything after that, embracing the chaotic abstractness they dove into. Not everyone falls into either of these sides thank god, and I tend to think the most ‘true’ fans can appreciate them as a whole. For awhile, the two sides seemed to make sense. But in true Ae fashion, Oversteps once again confuses an already confused bunch of listeners.

As a fan of Autechre myself, allow me to explain the ‘confusion’ bit: As with most albums released by this duo, there comes a time where fake album leaks are inevitable. For the most part, it is largely single tracks that are sometimes just small snippets, and they make rounds for a bit until they are proven to be fake. Some are prominent, fairly widespread, but something very bizarre happened when Oversteps supposedly leaked. The leak, which was obviously fake, was listened to by a staggering amount of people. Even more bizarre: some of these people were claiming it was 100% without a doubt, genuine. Fans of this group, who have claimed to be fans for ages, who felt like they deeply understood Autechre and knew everything about them, were sincerely claiming this fake to be completely real, utterly legit. So if that wasn’t already confusing enough, Autechre decide to throw yet another curveball, albeit it not in the way anyone ever imagined; this is the single most melodic Autechre album ever produced. It’s also the most ambient. No longer can Amber fans say they want them to return to melody. Not only that, but it’s incredibly bright, vibrant and at times, playful, similar to Plaid, even Aphex Twin.

So is this album good? I would say yes, very much so. Some will say no. Despite its obvious melodic bent, I feel it sacrifices absolutely none of the qualities that make them good in the first place, and this is painfully clear. The misconception of Autechre being futurist masters of all things technological is burned into the heads of far too many people. So much of mid-to-late 90s had this boundary pushing idealism and they were the poster boys for that, and I can guarantee you it was not their intention. Despite the chronological shifts, every album has contained traces of their personal, unique touch, and this album is no different. It’s singular focused yet amazingly clear compared to much of their work, it’s very free and open without a pretense of moodiness that bogs some Autechre down. They’ve written some of the most tuneful, engaging melodies of their entire career, something that would attract ‘many’ instead of ‘few’. Then again it’s personal taste here, not all the melodies here will appeal to everyone, and that is completely fair.

Some people feel that they went off the boil when Untilted was released, but I don’t really think so. Their back catalogue is not bullet proof, nobody ever agrees on anything, and fans endless assumption that they are intent on pushing the envelope is skewed. And if you have hardcore Autechre fans claiming a fake is legit, can you honestly listen to anyone? Time will tell how it holds up, but as I listen to this I can’t help but feel Autechre has made one of their best releases to this date. It is completely unapologetic in its vision, abstract or no, just like all the best Autechre albums.



Iain Bùthchanain said...

What István said.
Good review, though.

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