(Insert 500 words of giddy hyperbole); it’s a new Autechre album.

As if my fevered anticipation wasn’t already at saturation point, the first 30 seconds of Oversteps starts in a silence which leaves you questioning if the record has started. Then, in a similar fashion to Altibzz on Quaristice, r ess starts the album in a relaxed mood. As the melody is introduced it brings to mind classic Plaid productions; heavy squelchy blemishes with a beat skipping over the top. Then an awkward organ sound kicks in, reminiscent of a two-step garage shuffle, it doesn’t seem to know what to do with itself, trampling all over the end of the track in a frustrated state, eager to start the beat frenzy.

However, this doesn’t materialise. Autechre have continued the move, initiated by Quaristice, away from the dense, beat-driven structures that were so prominent on Untilted and Draft 7.30. The experimental vignettes of melody and synthetic waves of texture featured on Quaristice are allowed to flourish. The number of alternative versions and re-tweaking made to the initial Quaristice release always gave the album a transient feeling; good as it was, it always felt like a moment in mid-transformation rather than a static, finished entity.

ilanders is typical Autechre territory; a wonderfully rich vibrating mass of sound. pt2ph8 is the first in a series of three tracks of glistening metallic structures with only qplay concerning itself with the introduction of beats. Much heftier beats feature on Treale and d-sho qub, the recent mix for Fact was a timely reminder of Ae’s roots and influences. Hip-hop has often been present in some form, even on more abstract albums such as Confield and Chiastic Slide, but now the rhythm has been given room to breathe among the lacerated audio detritus. Treale almost sounds like it could be a Flying Lotus production. This is no bad thing in my eyes; it is still unmistakably Autechre and it sounds great.

One real oddity is the track known (1). It features almost classical guitar and piano noises dragged through layers of vintage sounding synth, giving it the feeling of a decadent tea-party on board a Dirk Benedict era Battlestar Galactica. It is a very strange track. This spacey retro-theme features at various points throughout the album, with hints of kosmiche-influence as the album fades out on Krylon and Yuop.

The intellectual musings that always surround an Autechre release are inevitable, but when you consider that their music is born out of hip-hop and electro, the fact that they have released an album with tracks that could (almost) be played in a club shouldn’t be so shocking. The melody itself never went away; it was just there in multiple forms crashing in to one another, demanding your interaction. Even on Confield and Draft, consider tracks like Cfern. It’s colliding beat structures infecting and bouncing around your skull, forcing your brain to fully involve itself with the music, mentally separating the strains of rhythm to achieve moments of clarity and joy; or the mighty Surripere and its total deconstruction of the techno beat. On Oversteps, Autechre have stripped away a lot of the multiple rhythms, choosing to focus on a single beat or melody and manipulating it in more subtle ways.

Ok, that was roughly 600 words attempted in an entirely controlled manner. The album has delivered a range of emotions; from initial giddy euphoria to questioning its depth to accepting its qualities to loving its eccentricities. Although this album might not have the intense, exhilarating moments of others ae albums, it is a totally different beast. It has evolved and has been refined. Oversteps displays a range of texture and variation not seen by Autechre before. It works incredibly well as an album, better than Quaristice did, moving through distinct phases of metallic ambience and soaring mechanical techno to create a beautiful, cohesive whole.

Get it at Bleep. CD and vinyl orders get a 24-bit WAV and 320kbps LAME encoded MP3 straight away, physical copies shipped 22nd March; just look at that lovely case ..

[Rev A : slight amendment to conclusion from further listening..]

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