1.'Incunabula' by Aron Coleman from www.almostcool.org
Way back in 1993 and 1994, Warp Records released a series of albums under the "Artificial Intelligence" series that have all nearly gone on to be classics. One of these releases was Autechre's Incunabula, and although they've done some more experimental and fairly interesting work since then, this album will always be their benchmark. It's one of those rare electronic releases on which individual tracks all manage to sound different, yet the album has an amazing cohesive quality. Not only that, but it's one of the major releases that helped to spawn the whole "IDM" (Intelligent Dance Music) movement and propel Autechre into the spotlight. Over the course of nearly 78 minutes, Sean Booth and Rob Brown take you to a world where machines rule, but instead of sounding harsh or industrial (except slightly for a couple moments), they draw you in even more with their delicate and overlapping sounds. It's a highly melodic trip through a warm bubblebath of electronic textures that will make you feel like assimilation with machines maybe isn't such a bad deal after all.
If you've seen the movie Pi, (and especially if you own the soundtrack), you've already heard the first song on this album entitled "Kalpol Intro." It's a moody, gurgling track that provides the perfect, short beginning that helps tickle your inner ear and lead you along and into the rest of the disc. Mixing seemlessly into the next track (as every song on the album does), the group gets things moving a little more with the track "Bike." After a shimmering opening part, it moves right along with a shuffling little beat and some seriously deep backend bass.
Basically, you're not going to go wrong with this disc if you like electronic music that isn't the run-of-the-mill dancefloor bilk. Whether the group is cranking out the awesome "Basscadet" (probably the most upbeat song on the album with a muffled kick drum and all kinds of blips and squeaks) or the slowly-progressing epic of "Windwind," nearly every single moment on this disc is interesting and changing. Although some of the noises used on the album sound a little dated, the arrangements of the actual songs themselves are timeless and the disc flows from beginning to end without nary a hitch.
It's moody, shimmering, and beautiful and quite possibly one of the best intelligent electronic music albums ever made. If you've heard newer material by Autechre and it's a little too cut up for you, don't write them off. Instead, head for this album and listen to it several times over. Play it loud on a good stereo or headphones and hear the subtle layers and textures. If I had to choose only 5 electronic albums to take to an island with me, this would be one of them.
2.'Incunabula' by Darren Keast from Skinny
It is difficult to overstate the significance Sheffield's duo of sonic architects has had on contemporary experimental electronics. Some observers in fact dismiss the entire "Intelligent Dance Music" field as consisting of nothing but Autechre clones (I think wrongly). Michael Fakesch of funkstorung said in our interview, "They are our heroes! We don't make it a big secret." There's no doubt the preoccupation with non-standard time signatures and sounds that go click rather than thud has its roots in the techno fringes first explored by Autechre.
This, their first album, only hints though at the abstract direction they would take in their later work. Considered by Ae devotees as the electro album, Incunabula is chock full of dark atmospheric sounds and subtly strange beats. The two ruling powers in their heads at the time were the starkness of techno and the simplicity of hip-hop. But like all master artists, genre categories were meant only to be broken. They weren't concerned with making tracks for DJs to spin: the ideas each song dealt with were too weighty to layer into a club set or standard mixtape. What brings listeners and fellow musicians back again and again for inspiration is the understanding of melody, an element still sorely lacking in much of electronic music.
3.'Incunabula' by John Chedsey from SSMT
One of the more discussed names in ambient/techno/electronic music, Autechre's Incunabula actually reminded me at the outset of that new-age artist Jean-Michael Jarre who took electronic and synth pompousness to a new height (albeit often enjoyable). Autechre also has similarities to Orbital throughout - possibly because Orbital is the band I'm most familiar with in the genre. As the album wears on, the music gets away from largescale sweeping sounds to a more percussion and electronic effects heavy attack. On occasion, some of the synth tones used come across as cheap. For example, the intro tone to "Doctrine" just doesn't cut the mustard. But more often than not, the album is enjoyable. "Windwind" is a lush song that works for me, as well as "Bike". It seems overall that Autechre could use some expansion on the basic ideas presented on the CD, but it's a good piece of work in general.
4.'Incunabula' by Megan McLaughlin from CMJ
Techno's permutations can lean towards soulful house, ambient mystic or straight old school techno-logy. Autechre takes the straight and narrow path, scarcely deviating from the instrumental blips which marked techno's debut into the dance world. The record flows by like a river, the interruptions rising like bugs out of the water. Rather than filling the spaces, (Incunabula) prefers to let them slide, the brief stirrings of noise the only melodic, rather than rhythmic, input. This is another in the Artificial Intelligence series, releases concentrating on sound and mood rather than song. Any of the vibrantly-titled songs ("Bronchus 2," "Eggshell," "Maetl" and "Windwind," to cite a few) supply the fundamentals of basic techno music and leave a refreshing sound in your ears.
5.'Incunabula' by Rupert Howe from the Select magazine
The word on 'intelligent' techno is that it's the music of the future. Wrong, it's the music of now. The Artificial Intelligence project may have lumbered Warp with a lot of unwanted cybernetic driftwood, but really there's nothing here going to have to wait 50 years to experience better in virtual space.
Autechre is two Northern studio hounds whos intricate inventions have taken up where LFO and the early Warp affiliates left off, with the robotic plink-plonk aesthetic now fossilised several notches down the evolutionary scale. Their unhurried approach (at 70-odd minutes this is the longest AI album yet) lets them glide from the stellar melodies of 'Bike,' through the strange vocal emissions that filter into 'Autriche' and into the echoing experimental chamber of 'Basscadet'.
This not only perks up the listener ('Incunabula' isn't one of those extended cures for insomnia) but provides the basic continuity and structure which is the hallmark of the modern techno long-player. Another Warp essential.