ne of the most interesting things to come along with the p2p revolution besides the free music, is the “Is it real or is it fake?” drama that runs alongside electronica’s largest profile album leaks. I’ve only counted two different versions of Untilted floating in pre-release cyberspace (versus five or six early Analord’s) before I could 100% confirm their true identities via a review copy; it’s possible this shortfall in fakes could be symptomatic of their popularity drop after the ho-hum Draft 7:30. Or, perhaps budding IDM producers seeking to get their music heard under the guise of Autechre have more respect, and possibly a killer fear / awe combination, for the more critically considered catalogue that Booth and Brown have built up.
It’d be pretty bloody hard for someone unfamiliar with Autechre’s past output to accurately to guess between those two mp3 LPs, though those more familiar with their recent work shouldn’t be too surprised with the sound of the real Untilted. As mechanised as their rhythmic focus can be, there is flesh, bone, and brain beneath the near industrial barrage of beats. Though most of my first passes through the harsher end of the Autechre scale have been less than enthusiastic, the thing that’s always made me return is that I know I’ll be rewarded for my subsequent listens.
Starting off with the Ae-by-numbers beat pattern and building manufacturing atmospherics of “LCC,” the early part of the album could lead to quick conclusions of repetition. Especially when followed with the familiar Confield-style of allegedly eschewed conventional melody and switching time structures of “Ipacial Section.” As Untilted progresses it seems to take a more engaging turn, with “Augmatic Disport”’s rhythmic particles attempting to bounce free from the lengthy structures with repeated (or harder) listens revealing a longer melodic shape. Shards of tune punch through, squeezing the sounds and forcing them through avenues they aren’t supposed to go through without a fight. Backing up and rushing in on itself it flips through simpler looped techno to end on a softer jazz note. It’s the two closers, though, that show the band’s continued man-in-the-machine evolution is continuing at a slower pace than previous leaps made with LPs. “The Trees,” aside from being unlike many other Autechre song titles, sounds more blood than oil, pitchshifted electro making a lengthy riff that drives the tune along. An odd hiss increases gradually from background to foreground around the 3.10 mark, rolling like some inclining wave over the beats. Like the all-consuming genetically altered and conscious blood from Greg Bear’s Blood Music the sound overwhelms the rhythm and becomes the song itself. The last few minutes of the song capture something alien and intensely melancholic and it’s probably the weirdest thing they’ve ever done, not because it’s progressive or punishing or beautiful, but because it’s powerfully emotive without being totally emotion specific. Can I call it soul?
Last song “Sublimit” follows a similar path shifting between genres, giving nods along the way. Starting from Scanner bleeps and lean snares with conveyor belt processing hums and moving into a cross pollination of interference with a vaguely sprightly Spring Heel(ed) Jack junglist pace. It manages to slow down without sounding tired via dub and goes easily into some underwater FSoL / Orb territory, and the music continues to comfortably shift enough to keep your attention focused over nearly sixteen minutes without going balls-out frenetic or losing its way. Ending with a phantom drone floating over the spiky beats, this too seems a lost and lonely ending. It seems Autechre may have found that blend of soft tissue and steel that much electronica misses by a hair’s breadth.
Reviewed by: Scott McKeating
Reviewed on: 2005-04-19