There was a time when Autechre flew the electronic-music flag as forcefully as anyone, translating the notion of beat-programming into terms swallowed whole by experimentalists and post-rock bands enthralled by abstraction but skeptical of dance. It didn't last long, but the late '90s placed Autechre at the front of a movementa context that flourished both inside and outside electronic-music circles.
That time is no longer. More difficult than ever, Autechre has moved into increasingly isolated corners, chasing sounds and shapes like monks guided by ideas they'd just as soon let go unspoken. It's made for good and bad results: 2001's Confield was a punishingly distorted grunt of an album, while 2003's Draft 7.30 breathed refreshingly crystalline streams of air. The new Untilted falls somewhere in between. "LCC" starts off hard and monolithic, forcing a thick, bashing beat into a container too small to hold it. The pattern favors simple repetition first, but variance arrives as kick-drums hit at different angles, cymbals splash in different colors, and mercurial electronic tones hover in and out of view. It's brash, but it invites and rewards close listening.
Most of Untilted works that way, like a violent crime and its mystery unspooling at the same time. "Iera" is one of few tracks that answer to what could be called a groove, but even that groove arises as a fractured evocation more than a giving gesture. More typical is "Ipacial Section," a teeth-gnashing mess of tangled wires and ripped robot skin that goes, maddeningly and intriguingly, nowhere. As a strategy, Untilted's severe deconstruction plays like a non-starter; as a working method settled on by an act from whom fans would expect nothing less, it sounds like Autechre reshuffling terms that are very much its own.