If there is one word oft used to describe Autechre it would be “difficult.” Not that it’s really any revelation to point it out at this point, but a necessary footnote considering that Rob Brown and Sean Booth have just released what may be their most listenable album to date. Quaristice is the duo’s 9th album since its formation in 1987. If you’ve followed its career at all you’re probably already all too familiar with high points such as LP5 and Confield, but even those are arguable if you’re a fan of the earlier, less glitch-oriented material.
Quaristice does an excellent job of mixing the two sides of Autechre into one cohesive running narrative. Over the course of its 20 tracks, it volleys back and forth between dense glitch workouts and moody bliss-outs. The album begins and ends with some of the most beautiful ambient pieces in the duo’s entire back catalog. With a decidedly melodic focus and shorter tracks, this could very well be the Autechre album to hook those listeners with an apprehension towards them. While I personally have never found it hard to like the duo’s music, they certainly don’t have the widespread audience of someone like Richard D. James or Squarepusher. Maybe it’s because they occupy a space a little bit closer to artists like Pan Sonic or Pole than the average listener is comfortable with getting. Normally for every brilliant snippet of catchiness there would be a point at which the duo would fold it in upon itself to create some sort of chaotic tension. Confield especially follows this pattern with cuts and clicks that practically scrape against the ears like so much cutlery (and I mean that in the best way possible).
Ultimately, Autechre isn’t doing anything more on Quaristice than sanding off a few of the edges and re-perfecting its sound. It may seem like a pretty simple equation for success but there have certainly been a few missteps in the back catalog as well (Untilted anyone?). After that album’s disappointment and another couple of years, I’m happy to see them climb back on the horse. Thankfully for all of us still paying attention Autechre seems more fresh faced than than it has in a long time. Quaristice is another shining jewel in the duo’s crown.