Taking Sides: Autechre vs. Aphex Twin

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via idm dude

"Contemporary electronic music is plagued by near-universal adherence to boundaries and rules: the 4/4 dictum, standard half-dozen effects, groove fascism, dumbed-down melody and harmony, limited sonic palette, and so on. Trembling before rules stifles compositional chance-taking, which causes the dreaded “same old, same old” effect. It’s too rare these days to listen to a new track and think, “I’ve never heard anything like this before.”

That’s because e-musical creators have become too proper and boundary-kowtowing. Don’t fall into the well-behaved composer trap! You and your listeners deserve better. Cultivate, instead, a healthy disrespect for boundaries."

Crackle Box, Friday, 4 May 2012 14:28 (2 years ago) Permalink

Hahaha! I'd say "the 4/4 dictum, standard half-dozen effects, groove fascism, dumbed-down melody and harmony, limited sonic palette, and so on" produced 10 times more good music than IDM ever did.

Tuomas, Friday, 4 May 2012 14:36 (2 years ago) Permalink

I'd agree with that, but "healthy disrepect for boundries" is the key here. Sometimes I feel guys like Venetian Snares and Squarepusher do these things just to do them. At least when Autechre breaks boundries they do so with some internal logic.

I do hate that reasoning because it's so easy to say "maybe seek out some better music, fuckhead?" I mean people extolling the virtues of their favorite music maybe shouldn't be comparing it to Lady Gaga or the Black Eyed Peas, which is the type of music they seem to reference above.

That's a pretty funky dance, Garfield. Show me how you do it. (frogbs), Friday, 4 May 2012 14:45 (2 years ago) Permalink

As someone who came to electronic music via IDM, I remember thinking that the (misappropriated) "4/4" styles of house and techno were a bit boring (I would even have gone so far as to say "dumb" at the time). My attitude back then was akin to that of a prog fan sneering at contemporary 70s rock - that it lacked refinement, imagination, musicianship etc... But that wasn't what originally appealed to me about things like Aphex Twin and Autechre - it was the sheer shock of the new, and I soon realised that IDM was starting to ossify into about 3-4 clear categories defined by the major Warp acts. So while Autechre, Aphex, BoC and Plaid WERE making exciting, original music, there were umpteen snooty little bedroom producers making carbon copies of those sounds whilst looking down on an entire universe of electronic music for being "samey". The reason Aphex and Autechre are great is because they sounded like nothing else and that there was method to their madness.

Scary Move 4 (dog latin), Friday, 4 May 2012 15:20 (2 years ago) Permalink

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Monday, 7 May 2012 00:01 (2 years ago) Permalink

KitevsPill, what happened to the i's in your second post?

Pot Leeedom (Leee), Monday, 7 May 2012 01:03 (2 years ago) Permalink

You've got to be careful with your 'i's in Turkey: http://gizmodo.com/382026/a-cellphones-missing-dot-kills-two-people-puts-three-more-in-jail
(sorry for depressing off-topic link)

instant coffee happening between us (a passing spacecadet), Monday, 7 May 2012 09:16 (2 years ago) Permalink

autechre have nothing as overwhelming (for me) as 'saw II', but in the long run ('amber', 'tri repetae' or even 'confield') they win. besides, they're also better remixers.

rusty_allen, Monday, 7 May 2012 13:45 (2 years ago) Permalink

how do people listen to SAWII? all at once or in chunks? i've always found it overwhelming in a bad way.

guess it's Honker Burger tonight...#fml (frogbs), Monday, 7 May 2012 13:48 (2 years ago) Permalink

passively? How do people listen to Perlence Subrange 6-36?

Lowell N. Behold'n, Monday, 7 May 2012 21:19 (2 years ago) Permalink

i want twelve eps of autechre's take on analord acid.

Lowell N. Behold'n, Monday, 7 May 2012 21:23 (2 years ago) Permalink

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Tuesday, 8 May 2012 00:01 (2 years ago) Permalink

srsly surprised, kind of pleased kind of disappointed cuz u know ilm

nakhchivan, Tuesday, 8 May 2012 00:25 (2 years ago) Permalink

After AE rolling the last several tronica polls, I'm not too surprised.

Frankly, I prefer "Perlence Subrange 6-36" to SAWII (though I probably only have the US version).

Pot Leeedom (Leee), Tuesday, 8 May 2012 02:33 (2 years ago) Permalink

42 cloth eared fools

Crackle Box, Tuesday, 8 May 2012 10:58 (2 years ago) Permalink

Can't believe I'm in the majority, what a disaster for anti-populism.

Touché Gödel (ledge), Tuesday, 8 May 2012 11:01 (2 years ago) Permalink

this is versus gd afx twin tho, leee

nakhchivan, Tuesday, 8 May 2012 12:06 (2 years ago) Permalink

the same aphex twin who nearly won in this poll

who is your favourite among these celebrated ppl named on ilx site new answers?

vs godard, kelis, other ilx faves

nakhchivan, Tuesday, 8 May 2012 12:07 (2 years ago) Permalink

shit i missed this :(

Aphex Twin classic or Dud?

;)

Ludo, Tuesday, 8 May 2012 12:38 (2 years ago) Permalink

(oh the link disappeared, prolly better that way)

Ludo, Tuesday, 8 May 2012 12:39 (2 years ago) Permalink

Eh, not an RDJ fan much to begin with.

Anyway, at this rate, we could poll Autechre vs. this kitten and AE would win.

Pot Leeedom (Leee), Wednesday, 9 May 2012 04:46 (2 years ago) Permalink

i like both autechre and aphex a lot (meaning i have like ten releases from each that i never listen to) but autechre winning it seems rather wrong imo

the late great, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 06:41 (2 years ago) Permalink

kinda like picking a really fine quality knife over a whole drawer of good cutlery

the late great, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 06:42 (2 years ago) Permalink

Is that analogy suggesting that AE's discography is one big peak and then nothing? There's good cutlery in AE's drawer. Some of the most beautiful ambient stuff in early career, sure, but I think I've listened even more to the chaotic Drafts and especially my favorite, the (relatively speaking) underrated Untilted - so funky, so fun. Lots of different aspects to them. Sure Aphex has the ambient works and his drill and bass, but he's more of a one trick guy within those two categories. Autechre's tried out different ideas for each of their albums in their chaotic, 'difficult' phase. Which most people don't appreciate as much as their earlier stuff, but back then as well there was a sense of progression and innovation for each album.

abcfsk, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 07:03 (2 years ago) Permalink

Aphex's stuff has aged much worse than Autechre's - hate to say it but it's true. A lot of the values expressed in Aphex's music: extreme eclecticism, confrontational humour (paedo jokes and whatnot), DIY production, seem very much of their time.
Autechre lacked all these, which to many 90s listeners made them seem a little dry and faceless - the typical bedroom technobods getting a sallow tan from their computer screens etc.. Whereas Aphex was always the cheeky, pranksterish face of leftfield electronica - terrorising his poor ma and pa with music made in a a tank or a bank, dressed up as a teddy, screaming at pensioners whilst simultaneously being compared to Mozart in the broadsheet supplements.
People are more attuned to the idea of the "serious" techno producer these days I guess.
There's no social stigma surrounding computers and the internet like there was in the nineties (no longer simply the domain of geeks). And lyrics like "ooh you dirty little boy" or "tampax tampax tampax" aren't so much irreverent as embarrassing in today's landscape.
Aphex Twin was the most up to date musician of his time whereas Autechre's feet were planted firmly in the future, so much so that a lot of their sounds only make sense years after the fact (I'm still getting my head around Confield tbh).

Scary Move 4 (dog latin), Wednesday, 9 May 2012 09:36 (2 years ago) Permalink

vs

Crackle Box, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 10:21 (2 years ago) Permalink

yes! and there must be a million knob-twiddlers out there, how many people are doing incomprehensible stuff with nasa-level control panels? i guess there's a bunch of ae copyists churning out identikit max/msp stuff but that's not what i mean. sean or rob once said that with all the software out there there's no reason for anyone to sound like anyone else. it's a beautiful dream.

Touché Gödel (ledge), Wednesday, 9 May 2012 10:31 (2 years ago) Permalink

I've never heard an Autchre melody that had anywhere near the affect on my that Flim has.

Sick Mouthy (Scik Mouthy), Wednesday, 9 May 2012 10:36 (2 years ago) Permalink

obv melodic beauty is in the ear of the beholder but for me ae have melodies coming out of the wazoo, e.g.

Touché Gödel (ledge), Wednesday, 9 May 2012 10:41 (2 years ago) Permalink

Sicko, Flim is lovely, but I'd say the middle section of Arch Carrier when the strings swell into the mix is as (if not more) affecting. Then there's the melody on Pir. What about the codas to GarbageMx, Piezo, Cichli etc? All big contenders in my book. I used to have one of those stereos with QSurround (remember that?) which somehow only ever worked with Autechre albums.

Scary Move 4 (dog latin), Wednesday, 9 May 2012 10:48 (2 years ago) Permalink

i dunno dog latin, autechre sound waaaaaaay more dated to my ears. nth generation dsp fuckery and all that pseduo random nonsense seems so early 00s and isn't something that i think will ever make a big comeback. compared to crusty old tape saturated analogue techno which is one of my favourite sounds and never gets old, infact in the current context of techno, those early AFX releases sound better than ever. cf lots of recent surgeon dj sets.

it almost seems like autechre spent all their time trying to make their music random and alive in a way that just naturally happens when you walk away from the computer and start having fun and plugging things in to things. i think aphex got on to that vibe earlier than everyone else.

Crackle Box, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 10:48 (2 years ago) Permalink

There's a bit in this Steve Albini AMA on reddit (http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/td90c/i_am_steve_albini_ask_me_anything/) that almost veers close to this, Crackle Box:

"Digital recording systems engender a kind of production that is overly concerned with editing and manipulating the sound after recording, rather than concentrating on recording music in a flattering manner to begin with. I don't like the way this perspective tends to flatten out performance nuance. That's the aesthetic problem I have with it."

Obviously 'performance nuance' is v. different between Jesus Lizard and Aphex Twin, but I'd wager that AFX and JL are closer in those terms than AE and JL.

Sick Mouthy (Scik Mouthy), Wednesday, 9 May 2012 11:00 (2 years ago) Permalink

nasa level control panels? that's just a bunch of controllers. i don't hear anything particularly complex in autechre's music, processing wise. especially compared to the acedemics. but then again, why would they attempt that kind of complexity, they're making 'pop music' and those kind of max/msp projects take years.

i much prefer the complexity that arises with a fluctuating current running through wires and modules and your jamming around then your girlfriend puts the washing machine on everything drops a quarter tone for a second and then all your lfos and envelopes go a bit funny. ha. now that's randomness.

Crackle Box, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 11:01 (2 years ago) Permalink

ledge, that idm dude i quoted upthread has this blog:

http://rachmiel.org/blog/

he's an instrument designer, very good software instruments, and he's quite passionate about all the software out there 'there's no reason for anyone to sound like anyone else. it's a beautiful dream' stuff.

Crackle Box, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 11:05 (2 years ago) Permalink

xxpost Ae always insisted that there was nothing random about their music. Maybe the kind of bangin' analogue techno of Aphex's "Classics" R&S era is having a resurgence, but that's natural retromania at work. Who's to say drill'n'bass won't make a comeback at some point in the next 5-10 years?

If the DSP-fuckery thing sounds early-00's it's because so many IDM bandwagonjumpers were copping Ae's style at that point that the market became saturated and collapsed in on itself (it hurt Ae very badly during their Draft/Untilted days). But they'd been working on and honing that sound since as far back as Chiastic Slide in the mid-90s. I find something like Cichli or Rae have a greater a emotional impact today than, say, 4 or Girl/Boy Song, which I've always loved but offer diminishing returns on the whole. Of course your experience may differ. I certainly overplayed a lot of Twin back then, to the point I prob don't need to listen to much of his work again.

Scary Move 4 (dog latin), Wednesday, 9 May 2012 11:05 (2 years ago) Permalink

yeh that's why i said pseudo randomness, i.e they're always creating relationships between controller data to achieve a certain kind of complexity that most people interpret as sounding 'random'. i just feel like their music sounds too much like processes at work and that doesn't really excite me. i have the same aversion to a lot of serial music.

i guess someone like keith fullerton whitman is a well known example of someone who adopts similar techniques but his music seems to transcend the process. or something. lol. this is all wank, aphex just makes decent tunes innit

Crackle Box, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 11:24 (2 years ago) Permalink

of course the flipside of 'no-one should sound like anyone else' is that everyone makes music that only they want to hear - i think this might be evinced by that dudes blog (thx for link anyway though).

Touché Gödel (ledge), Wednesday, 9 May 2012 11:28 (2 years ago) Permalink

CB - see I like the approach Autechre take here (and appreciate Aphex's alternative route). For me, Autechre really do take the "music is math" philosophy to its logical conclusion - the idea that machines, given the right input, can create their own art that somehow creates an impact on the organic human mind. It's like machines in a factory suddenly coming together to make a rhythm, or someone hitting on that magic number of monkeys required to write the perfect novel. I find it fascinating to think that algorithms and generative processes could move me so much, and often imagine Ae as scientists/mathematicians rather than composers, feeding numbers into the loop until it creates a mesmerising fractal image of infinite beauty - every element, be it awkward or jarring or perfect, held in a symbiotic relationship with the rest.

That's pretty far-fetched, but it's cool to think about.

Scary Move 4 (dog latin), Wednesday, 9 May 2012 11:47 (2 years ago) Permalink

"Digital recording systems engender a kind of production that is overly concerned with editing and manipulating the sound after recording, rather than concentrating on recording music in a flattering manner to begin with. I don't like the way this perspective tends to flatten out performance nuance. That's the aesthetic problem I have with it."

To be honest, editing and manipulating the sound after recording, and not the performance, is what electronic music is all about. The above comment may apply to rock bands, but certainly not to techno; when electronic acts liked The Prodigy started acting like they were a rock band, that's when things started to go wrong.

Tuomas, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 12:52 (2 years ago) Permalink

my analogy was meant to imply that

1. autechre are a one-trick pony who do one thing well

2. aphex has a much wider range and has done many things well

the late great, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 13:16 (2 years ago) Permalink

Tuomas and the late great OTM.

Scary Move 4 (dog latin), Wednesday, 9 May 2012 13:19 (2 years ago) Permalink

A most unlikely kids book.

Mark G, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 13:19 (2 years ago) Permalink

It's a tempting analogy but I agree with abcfsk, there's actually a lot of range to their work. Not an awful lot in common between Amber and LP5 and Confield.

Touché Gödel (ledge), Wednesday, 9 May 2012 13:29 (2 years ago) Permalink

xxp I don't agree with that at all, in fact if anything I'd switch the two

frogbs, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 13:37 (2 years ago) Permalink

Is it just me, or is "Clipper" (and I guess other bits of "Tri Repetae") the closes Autechre came to sounding a lot like Aphex, or at least not dissimilar? After that it was really off to the races for the duo.

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 14:05 (2 years ago) Permalink

It's not as though Autechre made an entire career out of one idea, but there's a clear philosophy and a trajectory core to their work, starting at Tri Repetae and running through to the present. Aphex on the other hand would have clearly defined jumps in style from release to release, track to track, but it became apparent around the time of Druqks that really he only had about 4 or 5 kinds of track.

Scary Move 4 (dog latin), Wednesday, 9 May 2012 14:05 (2 years ago) Permalink

one man's clear philosophy and core trajectory is another man's stuck in a rut

the late great, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 14:10 (2 years ago) Permalink

I also never quite got the impression Autechre was ever taking the piss, even when they probably were. Aphex, on the other hand, like many a genius, seems impressively aloof about his own work.

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 14:12 (2 years ago) Permalink

So aloof that he hasn't released anything of significance in over 15 years...

Scary Move 4 (dog latin), Wednesday, 9 May 2012 14:13 (2 years ago) Permalink

tlg PWND AGANE by SYNTHGEAR

worth a click through though

the late great, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 17:10 (2 years ago) Permalink

http://www.bastwood.com/?page_id=10

the late great, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 17:11 (2 years ago) Permalink

i remember that. the venetian snares one cracked me up

am0n, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 17:31 (2 years ago) Permalink

yeah i remember hearing about that and thinking it was photoshopped, but sure enough

frogbs, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 20:15 (2 years ago) Permalink

that face is great. and it sounds otherworldly.

the live face recognition / remapping thing also fantastic.

but i still voted ae.

koogs, Wednesday, 9 May 2012 22:34 (2 years ago) Permalink

Is it just me, or is "Clipper" (and I guess other bits of "Tri Repetae") the closes Autechre came to sounding a lot like Aphex, or at least not dissimilar?

Not to me. I always thought that Amber was their most Aphexy album.

Pot Leeedom (Leee), Thursday, 10 May 2012 03:54 (2 years ago) Permalink

In fact, I still think that "Nil" sounds an awful lot like "Schottkey 7th Path."

Pot Leeedom (Leee), Thursday, 10 May 2012 03:56 (2 years ago) Permalink

Keynell

hot slag (lukas), Thursday, 10 May 2012 05:11 (2 years ago) Permalink

... is awesome

Touché Gödel (ledge), Thursday, 10 May 2012 08:41 (2 years ago) Permalink

really like the lego feet EPs, probably more than any gescom except the immortal detroit techno masterpiece that is TWO OF

the late great, Thursday, 10 May 2012 14:34 (2 years ago) Permalink

Hah, listened to Confield for the first time in ages, and sure, I can see why folks might think that one is taking the piss.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 10 May 2012 14:35 (2 years ago) Permalink

oi mates some granular synthesis is all over me bloody techno lp im going to make me an orrible post about it to me ilxor chums

tebow kortwa (nakhchivan), Thursday, 10 May 2012 14:37 (2 years ago) Permalink


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