The enigmatic English, Electronic music duo Autechre released their fourteenth studio album, SIGN on October 16th. Autechre who formed in 1987 in Rochdale, Greater Manchester has become leading pioneers in techno and electronic experimental rock. Their unique brand of music emerged on the experimental techno scene around the same time as numerous other techno genre legends like Aphex Twin.
They have influenced performers as diverse as Thom Yorke, Flying Lotus and the next generation of techno genre craftsmen. Autechre’s extensive discography is seemingly timeless and it becomes easier to take in their musical efforts as computer gaming soundtracks have adopted their sonics fingerprints and a younger generation grows to appreciate their work. I can testify to this occurring as my Computer Tech Analyst twenty-something son immediately took to their sonics as I listened to the album. There is something elusively ageless to Autechre’s artistry.
SIGN follows their 2018 NTS Sessions 1-4 which consisted of 4 sessions each two hours in play length. SIGN, by contrast, is practically the equivalent of a pop album with a run time of a little over an hour. This time around Rob Brown and Sean Booth who comprise Autechre look to offer an outing that is more concise and relatable. As with any release the pair relies on what has made them distinct since their inception, their computer programmed sonic artistry informed by their roots in hip-hop, house and psychedelic synths. Autechre all along the way have pushed the edge of the techno envelope by pulling their sounds around and deconstructing understood sonics to make them something completely different. It is no different on this offering.
For many Autechre’s music can be considered ambient background sonics with the listener allowing the tracks to waft over them. In contrast, numerous aficionados study each track to within an inch of their lives to find hidden meaning and significance. That extends to examining and gaining an understanding of the track titles symbolism. As you grow to accustom to their shorthand greater meaning is gained. For example songs like “F7”, which is the key that opens up a thesaurus on the computer keyboard, open up the listener to their layered stretched out synths sonics on the track. “Si 100” is otherworldly and is channelling at least some of Aphex Twin’s work.
“M4 Rema” successfully marries hip hop and industrial noise for an extraterrestrial ride. Autechre provides a definite ebb and flow to the tracks, where “Au14” is percussive and frenetic, it is followed by the solemn pulsating” Metaz Form 8”. This offering is followed by “gr4” a shimmering track who’s title possibly refers to a long-distance walking route in France. The dramatic “th red A”, ( Thread A) engages and is full of energy which is counter positioned against “psin AM” which captures the feeling of a grey, rainy day and reminds me of Mogwai’s works on Atomic and Every Country’s Sun. The recording ends with “rcazt” as an ebullient finish to an engaging release.
Autechre will never be everyone’s cup of tea but for the adventurous or simply curious the record offers numerous rewards. The more you listen the more acclimated you become to the world Autechre has created within the album. SIGN provides an excellent gateway into Autechre’s older catalogue. The album is a journey through emotions as reflected by their musical experimentation. Autechre have throughout their discography created some of the most complicated music you will ever envelop yourself within, but in the end, it is enormously pleasurable and a must-listen for experimental/techno fans. Autechre with SIGN looks to flex the listener’s mind while opening up the listener to new musical possibilities. There can be no nobler goal in music.