Rob Brown and Sean Booth formed Autechre in Rochdale in 1987 and despite turning twenty six this year, the duo remain devilish in their dynamism; exploring new territory from record to record. Exai, (as its title phonetically ciphers) is Autechre’s eleventh full-length release and at over 2 hours, is their most sweeping and ambitious record to date.
Autechre emerge bearing metallic incisors. Exai‘s opener ‘FLeure’ immediately demonstrates their hallmark rhythmical thrash. The opening twenty minutes of record provide a potent reminder that, despite an oceanic quantity of cerebral techno producers, Autechre remain virtually peerless in their capacity to construct obtuse percussive renderings. On ‘irlite (get 0)’ percussion is joined by synth stabs, full bodied bass and wandering, hyperactive melody. Unpredictability is part of Autechre’s DNA: rhythms rupture the moment they feel established. They offer the faintest melodic glint only to plunge back into the disorienting murk.
Mutant percussion and mischievous rhythm dominate Exai’s opening proceedings. When unexpectedly, warm and swelling pads sprawl out across ‘javatee C’. Following an impolite entrance, Autechre stretch out and make themselves at home.
Brown and Booth have always felt determinedly forward-facing, but Exai draws together many of their previous guises, and reassembles them as an impressive whole: there’s the hip hop/techno interplay with which Autechre have persistently toyed; the ambience of their later catalogue; spiralling, multidimensional rhythms and even fleeting moments of euphoria.
The album’s outstanding centrepiece ‘bladelores’ drifts patiently across 12 minutes of dreamlike shapeshifting and kicks off a second hour in which the record demonstrates Autechre’s comfort operating at ranging tempos. The unrelenting chaos of ‘runrepik’ and ‘slp9’ are foiled by spacious ‘cloudline’, dubby kicks which propel ‘deco Loc’ and the reverb chamber hip hop snares of ‘reck ons’. Autechre have long expressed discomfort at being too closely tied to any particular musical style, and Exai exhibits them at their spasmodic, genre-hopping best.
For two sweeping, enthralling hours, Autechre demonstrate their dexterity and fully justify their position at the top table of challenging, forward-thinking electronic artists. Lengthy but equally rewarding, Exai is a treasure trove, which draws upon the strongest elements of the Autechre’s history and presents another bold step in their growth.