1.'Chiastic Slide' by Bob Bannister from Puncture
Autechre's music is almost entirely "electronic" and may well be made largely with digital equipment. They nonetheless work at sounding quite "analog" -- partly by the good old-fashioned practice of overdriving their amplification. Their music is full of asymmetric rhythm loops and it hisses, crackles, and rumbles like a steam engine under pressure. With several longer pieces, what comes across as merely a complex clockwork at the two-minute mark gathers intensity through repetition and eventually drills its way into your skull quite nicely. This is a fundamental principle of "drone" composition and Autechre understand it well.
The opening track's groove recalls Lothar and the Hand People's "Machines"; it lumbers along at length, with an interesting section where the enmeshed loops seem to get out of sync for a bit, then suddenly snap back together -- the kind of thing that, whether the rhythm section is mechanical or human, is easier to do by accident but more impressive if you can plan it.
Autechre seem to me noticeably indebted to the mid-'70s Germans who formed Cluster and Harmonia -- not slavishly imitative, but similar enough to bring up the intriguing possibility that they're familiar with Moebius and Roedelius. Their UK milieu seems more likely to revere Detroit techno pioneer Juan Atkins than some musty Krautrocker, but there are plenty of admirers of both. Autechre's records come out on Warp in the UK (home of Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, et al.), and the release of this on the Nothing label is a welcome complement to the Wax Trax US issue of their earlier Tri Repetae full-length (with a couple of EPs thrown in to make it conform to electronica's double-CD requirement). To have this much of their catalog available here is a good thing; and as the two members (Rob Brown and Sean Booth) also operate under the band name Gescom for the highly regarded Skam label, you're in for years of catchup.
Chiastic Slide is sonically denser than their previous work, and has fewer sections likely to be labeled ambient. I enjoy listening to it, though at times it feels hermetically sealed -- a bit claustrophobic--as if I'm hearing machines talking to each other in some airless vault.
2.'Chiastic Slide' by Jason Ward from The Trout Cave
Chiastic Slide is their fourth and most extreme full-length release to date, and may be thought of as difficult listening by many. Autechre’s rhythms can often seem random and out of sync, yet there is a logic at work. To me it is like zooming into a Mandelbrot Set. Zooming into (and out of) the noise and what seems chaotic until you can see individual events, and can see an underlying structure. The band frequently build up their rhythms in layers, using the syncopated and ornamental parts first so that the layers seem to be clashing, then by bringing in one regular part, all the pieces will come together before your ears. The Autechre boys rarely use any recognisable sounds for rhythm or melody. Everything seems so processed that the sounds become more than the sum of their parts and take on a truly original quality. This album may sound very harsh, cold, clinical and inhuman to a lot of people, but to me sounds like one of the first electronica records to have gone so far as to transcend all these concepts and take first steps into bold, new artistic territory. I don’t have the faintest idea where that territory is, but it seems so fresh and so now with it’s information overload, subliminal motifs, coded transmissions, mid-song transformations and whispers of artificial intelligence. As Sean said himself in their Wire magazine interview from February 97 – "We listen to a lot of our new stuff and it seems to be coming from somewhere other than what we can understand. That’s probably why it seems slightly magical, in a childish sort of way." There are definitely fewer answers than questions, yet I find this very attractive in a musical climate where one has to search far and wide for true originality. If interested in the boundaries of musical science, I thoroughly recommend checking this one out.
3.'Chiastic Slide' by Lorin Reed from Isnotwas
The more I listen to Chiastic Slide, the more it grows on me. I can remember how painful my first couple of listens were. In fact, this is probably one of the least accessible albums I've ever owned. The fact that its so hard to listen to made me feel kinda uneasy, seeing as how I had to pay an import price to own it. But strangely, there’s something attractive about Chiastic Side, even if I do have to force myself to listen to it sometimes.
Here's what happens with Chiastic Slide: Track 1 plays, and the intro features some really sweet percussion. Then we hear a really dark and synthetic bass, and it sounds really nice. It gets under your skin for about 4 minutes, at which point the song mutates into something a little more aggressive. "Sweet", I thought, expecting that the other tracks would feature a similar formula. But then track 2 plays, and it happens to be really, really strange and noisy, devoid of a clever drum loop or a wicked synth noise. It just sounds like....like nothing. Or too much of something....hmm. I guess what I'm trying to say, is that it didn't fit. Or maybe it did, and my ears just didn't react like they should have. Either way, the whole album continues in this vein, and is very unforgiving.
I deem Tri Repetae the ultimate Autechre and the reason is because of it's variety. We get to see Autechre do EVERYTHING that they do. Some of it was hard to listen to, some of it was easy. Some of it was hugely ambient, and some of it was profoundly straightforward. It had something for everyone, and it was the perfect introductory album. Unfortunately, Chiastic Slide isn't so fair to the listener. It challenges, both rhythmically and melodically, by being as odd as it possibly can. Some songs were a little too much for me to grasp, and I sat listening for the cue to nod my head (which never came). So I was led to believe that I might have been listening for the wrong reasons, and that I should stack it on my shelf till I was in the right mood... that turned out to be a good idea. So now, there are times when I wanna set the volume to max, and hear Chiastic Slide for what it is, as few as those times may be. When it does happen, though, I can appreciate the sexiness that comes with Autechre's odd time signatures and twisted-as-anything samples. At those moments I'm happy. It might take a while to get into, but Autechre fans are ready for that sort of thing. For those diehard folks out there, this is an album definitely worth seeking out.
4.'Chiastic Slide' by Mark Bartlam from Starkview
This album sounds totally fucked. The Autechre boys have upped the levels of static and distortion on their fourth album so much that I had to check my speakers hadn't blown, or that the CD wasn't scratched. On the first listen, the music on this record sounds totally alien and inaccessible. It's like Autechre have practically flogged their machines to death. Further listens, however, reveal a music that is rich in texture, with subtle fragile melodies fighting to be heard amongst the harsh metallic beats and sometimes insane levels of noise. It's also very hard to describe, and almost demands a new language to explain it's intricacies.
It starts off wonderfully with Cipater, which stutters into life with a funky bassline played over a mechanical repetitive breakbeat. Melodies fade in and out of the mix, never outstaying their welcome. Rettic AC follows, a short track clocking in at little over two minutes. A beatless track, it features an ethereal synth melody played over huge static, like a radio straining to pick up otherworldly transmissions in the background. Next up is Tewe which, to these ears, sounds like plucked strings over the sound of chattering insects, all amplified hundreds of times over. The fourth track, Cichli, is probably the highlight for me. The track crackles rhythmically away in the background while the most beautiful haunting melody fights for domination, until the the crackling dies away to leave the melody, naked and exposed, in all it's glory.
Coming up to the halfway stage, we encounter Hub. This is a tense, edgy piece - dark ambience shot through with synth stabs and whooshes, the merest hint of a beat. The beats kick in again on Calbruc, although they sound muffled, interspersed with what sounds like asthmatic wheezing, while a synth tinkles away over the top. Recury is another highlight - with a huge funky break, this is probably one of the most upbeat tracks on the whole album. Pule is another beatless ambient track and, with it's lovely chimes, comes as light relief after all that has gone before. The album ends with Nuane, a track that oozes menace - what sounds like voices scream to be heard above busy industrial beats, while synths drone away in the background. Eventually the beats fade to leave a nice, almost jazzy breakdown .
I don't want anyone to be mistaken - this album is very hard work - but anyone who appreciated Tri Repetae should enjoy it. It's a very dark piece, although there are occasional lifts in mood. The tracks, while long, are rarely boring or repetitive - Sean and Rob have gone to seemingly great lengths to introduce variation and hooks to keep you interested. The only real fault with this album is that it does take a few listens to get into, but if you perservere then you should find it very rewarding.
(chiasm - a crossing or intersection of two tracts, such as that of the two optic nerves in the brain).
5.'Chiastic Slide' by T.M from Akiko
To follow after the fashion of other critics during this overwhelming period of a million, weekly electronic abstractions on wax, falling back on overt analysis of the equipment favoured for the creation/unearthing of many of these recordings - the digital/analogue divide - strikes me as heartless. True, Booth & Brown's increasingly imitated brand of often clinically organised noise has never exactly been a laugh a minute, but the pseudo-intellectualism accompanying much of the glut of so called "intelligent" Techno in circulation at present, might finally find itself vapourising in the fonky face of Hip-Hop descended, time-warping, Turntablist tactics. This is nowhere more apparent than amidst the increasedly freeform and organic, much less digitally dictated, total systems melt-down of Chiastic Slide.
The derailed loops, the judder and thunk of mercilessly distressed mechanisms forced to syncopate to the mighty AE metronome, ARE altogether familiar, but not so the turgid breakbeats and snatched turntable cuts which anchor and drive the album's workshop-floor findings. Autechre shift closer to much of their GEStalt COMmunications output on many trax, which confers to these ears a much less considered and looser album (or perhaps, if you dig high-brow review science, aural "document"). It seems also in many ways that here the duo's "Industrial" influences are worn a little more proudly on their sleeves. The alchemical transmutation of base elements into something new, shining and near finished that cult luminaries COIL have proposed, would seem to have been taken on almost as gospel ("HUB"- are those "real" churchbells?) and rumours of a collaboration between the two soon, seems exciting and timely (no matter upon which side of that "intellectualism vs groove" fence you happen to reside).
There's a definite tarnishing of the high chrome polish somewhat liberally applied to the bulk of last year's Tri Repetae and interesting enough too (well, perhaps not THAT interesting) that with the release of their recent "Envane" EP, their distant B-Boy origins have finally been allowed to resurface, retroactively laser-cutting and fire-scratching through their increasingly galvanised and near armour-plated AUTECHRE material to date.
Chiastic Slide might not ever become your favourite of AUTECHRE albums, perhaps not even close. It might seem that the efficent if eccentric AE bio-mechanoid has lazily been left to go to synthetic seed. But this time I for one am glad to hear the fruits of another year's dirt clogging the filters ("Cipater"), glad to witness a little more weakening rust encroaching mold-like across the sleek, perhaps soon to be discarded, composite body-panels (already darker too with graffiti on "Recury").
Bitty beatz slip through gritty lubricant paste on "Tewe" and "Pule" almost escaped the rot entirely in a once hot oil bath, remaining as silver as ever but as a fleeting and fragmentary reflection in the rippling black mirror soup. And whilst time and inquisitive vandalism seem to have finally conspired to permanently fudge the brain and gears of "Rettic AC", high tension springs shatter and flake like aluminium autumn leaves at the peak of this ultimately, SURRENDERING symphony on "Chicli" (unless of course you have a CD machine calling the shots).
Whether intentionally left out under an ill-fitting tarpaulin since roughly this time last year, or perhaps absent-mindedly dropped into a deep, dank basement and somehow strangely FORGOTTEN until an unearthly stink forced a speedy retreival at some point earlier this month, for these ears at least, Booth & Brown lovingly reanimate their long suffering and weed-grown, hodge-podge chunk of dislocated funk.