Few artists hold a place in the hearts of today’s producers like Autechre. The British duo was among the first wave of artists associated with Warp Records and have built a reputation by challenging the perceived possibilities of machine-made music. Their first experimental and emotional recordings seemed entirely new, as if beamed in straight from a newly-discovered corner of the universe where a colony of machines had learned to feel. Today, Autechre’s members Rob Brown and Sean Booth are IDM demigods. Decades after their first release, they are still pursuing their own vision of avant garde electronica, seemingly without any influence from outside trends. On the occasion of their most recent world tour, which swept through the States in September and October, we’ve asked several producers to name their favorite Autechre track. Their answers present both a highly contestable best-of and a possible entry point to Autechre’s significant discography.
Perc: “Second Bad Vilbel” from 'Tri Repetae++' (1996)
“The peak of my Autechre fascination was around the release of the Amber album and especially the Anvil Vapre, Anti and Lost EPs, when they were one of the few acts that could break through my Aphex obsession. I still keep up with their new albums, but back then Autechre’s dual exploration of melody and rhythm really grabbed my attention. ‘Second Bad Vilbel’ has everything for me: intensity, aggression, a coarse sonic texture and those swooping, mournful pads. At a time when stripped-down techno was dominating the clubs I was going to, hearing this on a big system was a revelation.”
Phoebe Kiddo: “Bike” from 'Incunabula' (1993)
“Incunabula was a life changing record for me, which I am still heavily influenced by. ‘Bike’ captures late night, post-rave, druggy strangeness perfectly. It is at once uplifting and otherworldly. Rooted in techno, yet with distinctively UK drums, it seems to create its own world and is genuinely transcendental both in effect and in how it nods to dance musics of the time while carefully escaping genre classification. I’ve heard this track on warehouse dance floors at 5 a.m., in ayahuasca circles and during yoga classes. So although Autechre continued to extend themselves in outstanding ways, I can’t go past this one from ’93.”
Phoebe Kiddo is a Berlin-based Australian experimentalist who also produces as Mind:Body:Fitness.
Yves De Mey: “Surripere” from 'Draft 7.30' (2003)
“Although it’s totally impossible to pick just one favourite Autechre track, I looked for one that combines all their skills and magic in one piece, and I decided to go for “Surripere” from Draft 7.30. It has a bit of their beautiful and delicate ambient at the beginning of the track, driven by spiky percussion and some kind of tucked-away menacing acidic bassline. At 3:20 some metallic shards break the peace, and you know a weird twist is bound to happen. A bit later, the whole thing is put upside down by a broken beat that seems to last forever (or at least seven minutes), devouring the pads from the beginning and spitting them out again in an animalistic, vocalized fashion. The production of the track is obviously outstanding, and how the composition shows you every corner of the room is just baffling.”
Maxmillion Dunbar: “Jatevee C” from 'Exai' (2013)
“Obviously, it’s hard to choose one cut from the masters. It’s like choosing one hair out of a paintbrush, or picking a favorite grain of sand on a dope beach, so I’m gonna keep it currently futuristic, like they always do, and go with my fave recent cut off Exai. The deteriorating pads flow into all the earth fissures left by the drums. This cut is an example of the rhythm programming genius of these dudes. No matter how heady the tunes get, how schematic-driven and intensely technical, these guys are IN the pocket. You can always feel that B-Boy cut-up funk with them. And the melody/progression is just dope. Leaves me with the weirdest positive feelings.”
Mike Servito: “Eutow” from 'Tri Repetae' (1995)
“‘Eutow’ is my absolute favorite Autechre song, easily. I love the way it starts and finishes. It builds and has all these incredible layers and textures. It sounds alien to me. Tri Repetae came out in 1995 but it’s still the most futuristic music out there. Just incredible!”
Chloe Frieda: “Parhelic Triangle” from 'Confield' (2001)
“I guess my taste has changed quite a bit since I first heard Autechre’s music, when I was growing up in Connecticut and the Seattle area. I generally think their albums work better as a whole so it was difficult choosing one track in particular. I started gravitating towards the beautiful glitchy chaos of Draft 7.30, but decided to go with the darker, mysterious sounds of “Parhelic Triangle” from Confield in the end. There’s something very satisfying about the way the track unfolds. Chiming bells slowly meld into rhythms alongside harsh electronics, eerily propelling the track into another dimension.”
Chloe Frieda hosts the Alien Jams radio show on NTS.
Positive Centre: “Drane” from 'Peel Session' (1999)
“I always end up going back to early Autechre records. They contain a sense of urgency that exists throughout ’90s music that’s hard to recapture. You can take a snapshot across music of that time and find that everyone was moving in a similar direction. ‘Drane’ is a perfect example of this for me.”
Positive Centre is a techno-oriented moniker from Berlin-based producer Mike Jefford that has appeared on labels like Stroboscopic Artefacts.
FaltyDL “Pro Radii” from 'Untitled' (2005)
“‘Pro Radii’ on the Untitled album is my favorite Autechre track. It sounds like there’s a crowd cheering here and there, which is amazing on many levels. But it’s also just super tough. The rolling kick drums. I think Autechre is more gangster then perhaps they have lead on over the years. They seem like tough dudes.”