From the first two minutes of the opening track, Confield reveals a new stance for Autechre. Reverberant high-end detail, dense but logical, surrounds a characteristically restrained melody. This record represents a step forward for the duo of Sean Booth and Rob Brown: conscious inclusion of the kind of detail and controlled chaos that they have thus far minimized in their work. Up until now, Autechre have focused on shifting loops and stark atmopheric melodies. As Booth once put it, "The trick is not to let the detail become the main," and that's the precarious balance Confield treads with reverberant success.
The ground covered by Autechre to date has brought to the fore a signature form of electronica, relying on subtlety and interlaced patterninga sort of drum-n-bass for contemplation and meditation. Confield takes this platform of starkly sculpted beats and plies an insidious, self-conscious contrariness into the works. Whether that be relentless detail, Aphex Twin-like beat perversion, or otherworldly processed tones inserted into the mix, this disc stands up and calls for attention.
"Pen expers" makes a distinct foray into drill-n-bass with an architecture of ever shifting foreground beats and in-and-out counterpoint with fuzzy breaches of sound. "Sim ajshel" pulls a page from the dub notebook, with frizzy scratchy and twinkly noises piled on top of a bass-driven wagon. Other tracks experiment with skipping, lurching noises; incredibly dense pointillism; and high-octave ringing (serious headphone material).
Somehow, despite all this chicanery, Autechre manage to keep the detail from becoming the main. That means each piece has an intriguing, moving character that draws attention yet satisfies on a higher level. Confield represents a major departure and a solid advance for this ever-inventive duo: a must-listen for fans of experimental electronica, a masterpiece for the archives of history, and a solid top-ten pick for 2001.
VI scose poise; cfern; pen expers; sim ajshel; parhelic triangle; bine; eidetic casein; uviol; lentic catachresis.
Composed, performed, and produced by Autechre (Sean Booth and Rob Brown).