Music's been electronic since the 30s and mass-produced vinyl; since Frank Sinatra whispered over an orchestra. I don't recognise one record, acoustic or otherwise, released in the last ten years, that hasn't been based around electronics."
Autechre, the Mancunian duo comprising Sean Booth and Rob Brown, make some of the most intricate, hyperkinetic, whirlpooling electronic music of the moment. Their music resembles their conversation - they complete each other's sentences, gee up one another's train of thought, fly off at weird tangents (we discuss the possibility of titling EP tracks with a smell: "Gas, or hot spit. Or wet marbles!"). Although inspired by mid-80s HipHop and Electro gurus such as Mantronix, they don't share many of their contemporaries' nostalgia for these beached movements, nor any tendency to dream in sci-fi imagery. They reject the idea that the similarity of so much current Electronica is down to the equipment involved. "It's a fault of the people - people's insight into the technology," says Booth. Brown supplies the corollary: "They haven't got the connection from the head to the hands."
Autechre's music (the name sounds like an unimaginable shade on a Dulux colour-chart; a syn(aes)thesis of automation, technology and sense perception) is continuously intricate and worked; as solid - and sweated over - as the grand civic buildings of Manchester. Brown, an ex-architecture student, agrees. "We're always there, manipulating the machines, keeping a control over it, keeping the machines in check." From Acid House they derived the idea that texture could create its own narrative. "You used to focus on the one sound," explains Booth, "be guided by this sound changing all the time. But you knew it was just a guy twiddling a knob".
Their new album, Amber, mobilises a bombardment of cross-rhythms; it's a densely worked system of fluid, interlocking parts bearing a greater resemblance to the endlessly reforming texturology of free Improv. Keeping pace with the music can be like trying to eat soup with soup. Recorded in their own "dark, plain, oppressive little room", it's an extremely hermetic sound environment. "We invent sounds," says Booth, and Brown adds, "Rooms can affect the psyche. We'd have the speakers wherever they managed to go; it was a very disjointed atmosphere."
Rob and Sean have little empathy with modern club culture ("We're more to do with head culture"). "You can make your own future up", says Brown. Booth concludes: "That's whyelectronic music's always related to sci-fi, because it's things nobody's ever heard or seen before. I get more gratifcation from things that can exist today, or in the past, like alternate civilizations, than a book about spaceships. The music's only futuristic if you haven't heard it." Interview over, they leave - to christen a star.
Written by: Rob Young
Transcribed by: James Skilton