Although the 2010s have been seeing a massive influx of new, immensely talented electronic producers. Indeed many (if not most) of the most notable and innovative electronic releases over the past few years have come from the new-school, but certain veterans have shown no signs of slowing.
In 2013, legendary Scottish duo Boards of Canada dropped an impeccable return to form with the ethereal and otherworldly “Tomorrow’s Harvest”. The following year, the one and only Aphex Twin released the most competent comeback album anyone could’ve asked for with the seminal “Syro”. And then over the next couple of years, fellow Warp Record denizens Autechre took it upon themselves to follow suit in a big way.
In 2015, without much press or even public acknowledgement, Autechre slyly released a massive collection of recent live shows. Over the course of nine discs (5 of which were released initially, with the remaining 4 dropping seemingly out of nowhere), the Manchester-based duo were documented in various cities performing almost entirely new material, some of which indicated a call-back to the foundational ambient techno of their 90s albums, but the majority of which suggested that these absolute titans of electronic innovation were not even close to finished innovating; Autechre wasn’t just challenging the status quo of electronic music; this is to be expected from them at this point. Autechre was challenging itself.
The year 2016 ultimately saw these ambitions realized in the studio with the five disc “Elseq” collection, whose massive 4+ hour runtime presented the entire gamut of Autechre’s stylistic capabilities (and then some), from the intricate melodicism associated with their earlier work straight into the relentlessly kaleidoscopic and increasingly abstract tinkering we saw defining their live work from the previous year. “Elseq 1-5”, is not an ideal starting place for a newcomer to Autechre’s unique sonic universe, and indeed given the sheer amount of auditory territory it covers (not to mention its sizable length), it could even prove daunting to a seasoned listener. The rewards for perseverance, however, are immense.
While Autechre has never been entirely content within the relatively narrow confines of ambient and acid techno that lie at their source, this might be the furthest they’ve ever journeyed from those origins. They’re not just eschewing conventional techno structure, but intermittently injecting heavy elements of noise music and power electronics until any given beat-based track explodes into divine structureless oblivion.
While certainly not the most immediately accessible, “Elseq 1-5” is without a doubt among the best releases of an immensely strong year, electronic or otherwise. Though given the history of the duo who released it, this should come as no surprise.
Purchase the album from Warp Records here
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