Electronic duo Autechre have outdone themselves, quantity-wise.
Known for both their generous output as well as their radically abstract approach to the glitch sect of electronic music, Sean Booth and Rob Brown have a habit of unloading hefty releases onto their fans. As Autechre they’ve released highly-acclaimed double album and a five-disc box set of EPs in addition to a slew of albums dating back to the early ‘90s, most of which surpass the 70-minute mark. AE_LIVE, however, takes the digital cake. When the album first dropped, these “songs” retrieved from soundboard recordings from the duo’s recent tour clocked in at a total of four-plus hours. After adding five more tracks after the fact (because, why not?), AE_LIVE ballooned to a nine-plus hour length. Depending on your schedule, that could be longer than your work day, lunch included. For obvious reasons, this release is only available digitally.
All nine tracks are approximately one hour in length, give or take a few minutes along the way. This format, one could argue, is the ideal setting for Booth and Brown. They obviously love to play around in long forms and probably prefer not to have to worry about indexing their ideas apart from one another in post-production. The sky is the limit and the stages are their playgrounds, be it 54 minutes in Krems or 73 minutes in Dublin.
AE_LIVE is in no way an appropriate place for an Autechre newcomer. Everything about Autechre that makes them so very “out-there” is on fully display here, hours at a time. It’s extremely difficult to explain the ins and outs and the highs and lows of each track since they are all albums unto themselves. And even if I were to somehow pull that off, I doubt you would find the information very useful. If you click on your media player’s cursor and drag it to any random position in any given track, you will hear something interesting. There are no lulls in AE_LIVE‘s momentum. A bright pattern played by a synthesizer will often be offset by a pulsating rhythm that jars as well as seduces. Then some heavily-processed noise will smear itself into your ears as you’re trying to get the hang of what’s going on in the bass clef. It’s like being lost in the forest—while you may or may not feel like you’re making progress, you can only make out the density of your surroundings. The main difference is that with AE_LIVE you can hit the stop button.
If gilded glitch is the key to your imagination, you’re not going to want to press that button. You, Autechre fan, enjoy getting lost in the thicket of Booth and Brown’s collective mess. You want to hear sounds that other artists rarely summon. You would gladly sacrifice form for atmosphere. You don’t care where the paths goes just as long as it looks mysterious. To find your way out of the forest is, to you, almost a form of disappointment. If any of that analogy rings true for you, then AE_LIVE is the “album” for you. It prolongs that untethered euphoria to an almost absurd level and then some.