Autechre: Oversteps

If you ran a find/replace on Autechre’s polarizing IDM entry Confield, swapping out its skittering, paranoid beats for crystalline stabs of melody, you’d end up with something like the new Oversteps. The Sheffield duo can still leave listeners feeling alienated and alone amid washes of unplaceable sound—and song titles like “known(1)” and “d-sho qub” look more than ever like system files best left undisturbed—but comforting shreds of humanity occasionally reveal themselves in a bit of throbbing drone here, or a primal gurgle there. Like 2008’s Quaristice, the album opens innocuously enough, with ambient squiggles heralding the approach of a busted wind-up toy, but Autechre is at its best when textured, room-filling sound cloaks the more sinister synths hiding in its folds, as during the gloomy tinkle of “see on see,” or the Sierra adventure-game chimes of “krYlon.” 

Unfortunately, a track like “os veix3,” with its blips, aerosol blasts, and digitized fire, evokes early-’00s Múm without the charm, and Autechre’s mid-’90s heyday without the menace. That said, coherence has never been Ae’s strong suit: The songs are usually too singular to fit together in any immediately recognizable way. Instead, structure and emotional resonance emerge slowly from a mix of disparate sounds, providing a soundtrack capable of transforming the mundane into the alarming, then the consoling, and back again.

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