Peel Session 2
1.'Peel Session 2' by Alex Reynolds from Grooves Magazine
Sean Booth and Rob Brown have always claimed that titling their music was an exercise in futility, saying little of nothing about the work in question. With the second Peel Session disc they back this up, letting the renowned John Peel have a crack at giving names to four tracks that were first aired on the eponymous BBC 1 radio show back in late 1999. Peel responds to the challenge and plays it a bit cheeky, coming up with a few titles that he would think Ae would come up with: "Gelk," "Blifil," and "Gaekwad," and one that they certainly haven't -- "19 Headaches." Save for the last title, his descriptors are as equally useless as what the musicians came up with the first time around, and so it will have to suffice to describe what is, overall, an excellent Autechre release by the content of its music.
We start with "Czr/Gelk", a sloppy mess of rhythm and beats that sets the disc's mood by mutating into dark, brooding, disturbing ambience, helped by the mangled chords of a badly damaged piano. This cuts into "Cdown/Blifil", a crunchy, dancy work that moves easily into the slick, singleminded territory charted in Ae's "Drane" and "Clipper." "Sqrmap/Gaekwad" and "Pantium Chromoxid/19 Headaches" are clearly works in the vein of EP7-era stuff, with its bouncing-ball, monochromatic beats, and distorted synth. "Sqrmap" is a bit weird, oscillating between the echoes of playful and manic reflection, and is the most unique and interesting work to be found on this disc. The style of "19 Headaches" evokes wistful memories of theme music from a mid-80s video game called Marble Madness -- but it suffers as its more abstract melodic noodlings fail to coalesce into a coherent idea, leaving the listener hanging. While it won't make converts of non-believers, as a whole, this release is solid and will sate the appetite of the typical Autechre fan.
2.'Peel Session 2' by Patrick Vandenberghe from Ultra
Ae's on the mend! Apart from the way in which it showed us how best to hide a track, "Ep7" was thoroughly disappointing (some people have even called it digital masturbation or shouted insults at it), but this extended play, equally recorded in 1999, is a good egg. True, there's still some would-be 'musique concrиte' sounds rolling about, and "19 headaches" might even be described as "messing about, trying not to be pretentious", but then again it actually succeeds in reaching some of those points beyond pointless, at times, though in general it stays too playful to ever go cathartic - let alone ballistic (a word which is of course hardly apt for any of Ae's recordings). Yet "Blifil" might come close to just thаt, as it's fiercely rhythmic - a machine that's been carved open and is trying to escape its leash as it senses freedom faintly blowing over its many metal sheets, it's my favourite on this e-p. "Gaekwad" isn't all that bad either, and sometimes reminds of a mid-nineties Aphex Twin wanking about with toy sounds and rhythms, then having it all fall into place with a marvellous set of echos from "Tri Repetae" in canine heaven. By Autechre. Hurray everywhere? Not really. "Geik", a burnt-out hiphop case having a bored groovewear stroll, is my least favourite track of the four. Once again, I am in dubio.
On the one hand, it's factual. "Let's shove the old boredom aside and do a Peel session." Matter-of-factly. The sleeve is no-pretense: all-white, with the band's name modestly in black. But on the other hand, the finishing is luxurious, lined with blanked gloss, the same white gloss in which all other info is printed. False modesty? What's inside is not quite as rich as the 'Beatles' white album or any "number nine" on it. No matter how many doggies are in there and how often you hear them bark. Luckily, mixed feelings go well with this kind of records.
3.'Peel session 2' review by Ryan Kearney from Pitchfork media
"Odi et amo," reads a famous epigram by the Latin poet Catullus. "quare id faciam fortasse requiris? nescio sed fieri sentio et excrucior." Translating, with some artistic license, as, "I hate and love [Autechre]. Perhaps you're asking why I do that? I don't know, but I feel it happening, and am racked." Of course, Catullus didn't have Autechre in mind when he wrote this poem, but I had this poem in mind when I heard Peel Session 2. Generally, I love Rob Brown and Sean Booth, the English duo that comprises Autechre. But at the moment I hate them and am exhausted, because I have to describe their sound.
Nearly every comparison the critics use to describe Autechre seems terribly desperate, from architecture to computer source code to virtual landscapes. But this is not by any fault of the critic. The difficulty of Autechre's music is surpassed only by the difficulty of describing it. Nonetheless, the attempt must be made, so critics invariably use any number of the following words: blips, bleeps, farts, echoes, sparkle, skitter, clanks, pulses, drone, chopped, synapses, and on and on. These words may as well be Latin. But rest assured, I'm no different: plenty of them undoubtedly will appear below.
And so the inevitable attempt, however futile, begins. This four-song, 27-minute EP, which was originally broadcast on September 9, 1999, opens with "Gelk." (It should be noted that the song titles were chosen by John Peel because the audio masters delivered to Radio 1 contained none.) The track begins calmly with a trotting beat, analog hiss, and an occasional bass pulse that raises static as if the music were played through blown speakers. Foreign synths chime in, and a piano descends into the sonic plane just as the keyboards turn intergalactic, flickering out of earshot in perpetual reverberation. But nothing too surprising.
Then "Gelk" turns ominous. Deep synths set the dark tone, but the thickened beat, no longer clean now but crackling and popping, sends the song into the dungeon. Given the gurgling and indecipherable whispering, there must a deformed creature down here, maybe Sloth or the Gimp. The song soon strips down to one single sound, which most nearly resembles someone plucking the low strings of a grand piano. A more standard beat ends the interlude, as does what might as well be considered electronic steel drums, and soon the track is washed over by distant crashes, like Godzilla and King Kong playing soccer with a Zildjian delivery truck. When it finally ends, you realize you've almost run the full gamut of emotion.
The next three tracks, unfortunately, aren't quite as varied or complex. Before you can even digest "Gelk," the raucous "Blifil" breaks in with a more furious and uneven beat, thick drones, and muffled, chopped vocals. But the song barely progresses from there; the only other significant addition is droplets of digital water. Still, by the end of the track, one does sense that, over the course of seven minutes, Autechre have taken you from an underground dig to an extraterrestrial voyage.
The clacks that open "Gaekwad" consistently stutter and fizzle out like a spinning coin coming to rest. Other sounds reminiscent of creaking doors and radiators fill in the background noise. More steel drum-like notes and ghostly ambient whines keep the ear trailing along, and eventually, trebled beats skip in to carry the tune. When mellow synths, orchestral stutters, and high-pitched pings achieve melody over the skittering beat, Peel Session 2 achieves its most Aphex-like moment. But the cackling and wheezing that soon interrupt make this the only obvious and direct comparison on the EP.
Then there's the aptly-titled "19 Headaches." Some might say it's avant-IDM, but isn't IDM avant enough? I say it's Brown and Booth doing their best Phish impression-- digital jamming, if you will. The same skittering sounds are here, in addition to a synth straight out of "3-2-1 Contact." Sounds chirp into the foreground like pikas popping their heads out of a rock bed. Like these small, darting mammals, "19 Headaches" is at first interesting, then uncompelling, and finally, annoying.
This effort could almost be called lo-fi drill-n-bass, if there were such a thing. Perhaps their grittiest work to date, the EP is always worn raw by fuzz, static, or hiss-- a sharp contrast to the clarity of efforts such as Tri Repetae++, which rests on the opposite end of Autechre's oeuvre. Still, although Peel Session 2 is uneven and oftentimes bears similarity to their less-popular work (Chiastic Slide and EP7, for instance), we should nonetheless consider ourselves fortunate that, unlike Latin, this music has yet to bastardized out of existence.