Music

Autechre: Gantz Graf

Matt Eberhart

Autechre

Gantz Graf

Label: Warp
US Release Date: 2002-06-25
UK Release Date: 2002-08-05
Amazon
iTunes

Every year, the schism that divides electronic music into two very distinct and easily recognizable halves seems to grow larger and larger. On one side, people dance on a hardwood floor polished so finely that it doubles as a mirror. But the other side does not cater to the kind of kinetic physical movements that arise from a good beat and some warm bass. The other side is an almost unchartable terrain of angular cliffs, post-apocalyptic cities, fissures, and scrap metal that often have neither entrance nor exit.

Autechre's Gantz Graf is an epilogue to the far-reaching ellipsis that was last year's Confield. This new EP/DVD release on Warp digs much deeper and stacks sounds exponentially higher than any of the duo's earlier releases, and in the process, it bridges the gap between the danceable and the absolutely cerebral.

Where there was hyper-algorithmic minimalism before, there is now a flowing contrast of precisely constructed and layered tones that often leave no room to breath. Where an ambient breeze once set an ostensible mood much like a candle-lit dinner does on a first date, such simple luxuries have, on Gantz, given way to cryptic games of sonic cat and mouse.

On the title track, rich and impenetrable bass, which at times almost wheezes from the speakers, grinds up against wiry rushes of kicks and snares as intermittent pinpoints of melody pepper the soundscape throughout. No rhythm remains intact for too long, no sound is repeated more than a handful of times; yet somehow a hip-hop groove whitewashes the fence surrounding the entire piece. Not moving your body becomes impossible. And as the sounds fizzle out through twice-sterilized distortion, a single high frequency keeps the tempo straight while individual tones are highlighted on an aural catwalk before the whole piece finally gives up in with a thick puff of air.

It is these exactitudes -- that is, the perfect placement of every sound and the erasure of anything that might be mistaken as extraneous -- which set a precedent for the other songs on the album (as usual). Precision becomes the theme of the record, and as if this didn't create enough pleasure, the supplemental DVD -- Warp Records' first -- adds sights that offer formidable opposition to the Wonders of the World.

The video for "Gantz Graf" is a computer animation accredited to Alexander Rutterford. And while I have personal issues with visual representations of electronic music, I must set them aside to pay respect to Rutterford's masterful creation.

I can't tell which required more scruple, the music or the animation, but together they accentuate each other so well that them even when listening to the track in isolation, Rutterford's sharp, chromatic images still flutter through my head.

Taking place in a universe void of any other existence, the animation follows the birth and ultimate demise of a geometric and architecturally based living organism. Reread the above paragraph about the title track to get an idea of what this animation actually looks like. It is perfectly synchronized with the music and has fully succeeded in dropping to the floor the mouths of every one of my friends for whom I've played it. It is a truly incredible example of digital aesthetics.

And to put the icing on the cake, when you check out the 'Special Features' section on the DVD, there are two more videos. One of which is for Autechre's "Second Bad Vilbel", as directed by Chris Cunningham -- he's the guy who has not only worked with Squarepusher and Aphex Twin, but also Björk and Madonna, and has even had his videos screened in the UK gallery circuit.

Breaking from his general method of sound = movement choreography, Cunningham has become less intent on finding new ways to incorporate each and every sound into his images and instead opts for the build up a tense mechanical pornography both inside and outside of a robot. Rather than giving a narrative about a little girl escaping from the hospital (see Squarepusher's "Come on my Selector") or following a super-star and his dancers through the Los Angeles wasteland (Aphex Twin's "Windowlicker"), the video for "Second Bad Vilbel" focuses on the basic elements of movement and color in the same way that Autechre's music focuses on the basic elements of tone and timbre.

The Gantz Graf EP/DVD is certainly a lot to chew. Autechre has, as usual, surpassed anyone's expectations of them. And although the EP is only about twenty minutes worth of music, there is enough detail to entertain for a long while. Plus, the videos included on the DVD bring a very new light to their sounds, both old and new.

This type of sound/sight release has already become another landmark for Warp, and I have a feeling we will be hearing/seeing many more like it in the future.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image