Autechre - Oversteps - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Autechre - Oversteps

by Rich Morris Rating:7 Release Date:2010-03-22

The music of Rochdale electronic boffins Autechre has always been a forbidding prospect. Even for acolytes of the tortured, mangled forms of drum and bass, techno and electro thrown up by fellow Warp compatriots Aphex Twin and Squarepusher, the prestigious output of Rob Brown and Sean Booth - 10 albums across two decades - can feel a little off-putting, full of menacing, grinding beats and isolated, alienating synths. With Oversteps, Autechre have quite possibly outdone themselves.

Oversteps is something of a departure from 2008's Quaristice. Where that record alternated between lush, serene synth washes and hyperactive glitch-fests, Oversteps, even at its most animated, has its mood setting permanently tuned to 'dour'. A foreboding, doomy atmosphere permeates from the very start. After a slow fade-in which recalls Brian Eno's ambient soundscapes on Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, the submerged screams and wails that punctuate first track 'R Ess' let you know what kind of ride you're in for.

This moroseness does not mean Oversteps isn't a great album. In fact, the tracks probably crystallise what every so-called intelligent dance music fan wants from Autechre. The music here is as dazzlingly creative as it is challenging. After all, if there's one thing you shouldn't approach intelligent dance music with, it's the expectation that you'll be able to dance to it.

Throughout Oversteps, you have the feeling of trying to solve an aural puzzle. This is especially true on 'Known(1)', where beautiful, staccato chimes stubbornly refuse to resolve themselves into an intelligible melody until the third or forth listen, where upon your ears suddenly begin to fit the sounds together in a way that's reminiscent of seeing the second image in a magic eye picture.

There's still plenty of sonic beauty for the listener to bath in, and some tracks are more immediate than others. The shifting, glittering synth tectonics of 'Pt2ph8' and '0=0' are as lovely and captivating as anything the duo have produced. The proggy, 70s Radiophonic Workshop-style sounds which kick off closing track 'Yuop' will also bring joy to the heart of any fan of esoteric electronica.

Ultimately, though, Oversteps feels like a record you might admire more than love. Then again, as with previous Autechre releases, only repeated listens will allow one to fully explore and appreciate the depths of the music here.

Richard Morris

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