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Autechre - "Peel Session 2" (Warp)

Warp records has once again graced us with another Peel Session from Sean Booth and Rob Brown a.k.a. Autechre. It's a four track session from 1999 and features John Peel's handpicked titles for each of the four songs, as the masters of the session were deliverd to Peel without any information. One of the titles, "Gaekwad", has become a popular slur among some of my fellow Autechre fans!

The concensus among most of my fellow, Autechre-fanatic friends is that this particular Peel Session pales in comparison to the first and isn't such an impressive listen in general. I would tend to agree and disagree. I agree that the three tracks featured on the first Peel Session are by far some of their best material to date. It successfully highlighted their popular combination of haunting melodies, head-scratching fractured rhythms and slow, evolving digital architecture. Autechre was enjoying their peak in popularity at that point and would soon release their last, remotely-accessible full-length, the critically acclaimed "Chiastic Slide".

It seems to me that their 1998 release "LP5" was the beginning of a new era where many old Autechre fans jumped ship. While they haven't completely gone in a new direction, their sound just continues to evolve in an increasingly complex, and previously undefinable way. Autechre seems to shed their skin with each new release and as a result have shed some of the qualities that made them so popular. "Peel Session 2" adequately defines their current obsession with glassy synth sounds and overall dry production. I think the disgreement among my friends over this new release is their inability to sit through the first track "Gelk". It starts out with a pleasant music-box melody, but simply sleepwalks through undeveloped, yet engaging microrhythms and the sound of a what could be a prepared piano. It sounds like an outake from "LP5" and really falls flat on its ass.

But the rest of the session is quite good. "Blifil" has a tight, unrelenting rhythm and churns out a wild combination of backward voices and computer glitches. The aforementioned "Gaekwad" and the last track, aptly titled "19 Headaches", makes this cd a must for any Autechre freak. "Gaekwad" has a shimmery, tinkly melody that weaves in and out of wobbly percussion and typewriter snare sounds. Strings make their presense known during the breakdown and a creepy laugh tops things off nicely. "19 Headaches" is one of the most over-the-top Autechre tracks i've ever heard and highlights digital arpeggios and non-repetitive, shuffling micro-rhythms. It's a dry, complex affair in general, and although it's not neccessarily an essential addition to anyone's Autechre collection, it certainly has some impressive moments that highlight Autechre's continuing development.

Check out the clips here.

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[email protected] | March 2001 | Issue 12