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Members include Sean Booth and Rob Brown. Addresses: Record company--Warp Records, 503 8th Ave., 4th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11215, phone: (718) 788-1823, fax: (718) 788-7619, website: http://www.warprecords.com/warp; Nothing Records, P.O. Box 16681, Cleveland, OH 44116, phone: (212) 445-3677, fax: (212) 445-3406.
Autechre, pronounced "awe-teh-ker" and sometimes referred to by the abbreviation Ae, is one of the premier electronica groups in the category known as Intelligent Dance Music (IDM). The Manchester, England, duo consists of Sean Booth and Rob Brown. While Booth and Brown are sometimes at a loss as to how to explain their complicated music, others have tried. An interview on Amazon.com describes Autechre as "dry, detailed, abstract, and gorgeous." On the other hand, reviewer Steve Baltin of the Los Angeles Times characterized their electronic act as "experimental sounds seemingly crafted to test fans' patience." For Autechre, the creation of their music is about achieving satisfaction. As Booth told Ilana Kronick of the Montreal Gazette, "I have the perfect track in my head. I'm always trying to get it down and I'm getting closer, but it's hard. Because it keeps changing."
Booth was 15 and Brown 17 when the two first met in 1987. As the artist biography on the Nothing Records website explains, "[T]hey discovered they had virtually identical record collections, a mutual love of breakdancing and a shared history of BMX biking." They also discovered a mutual love for experimenting with sounds. Booth first started with a reel-to-reel tape recorder that was given to him by his grandfather. He used it for recording sounds off the television, which he would then edit into an aural montage. He told Marc Weidenbaum in an interview on the disquiet website, "When I first started doing stuff I was about twelve ... maybe even 11. I was at my granddad's. He gave me a reel-to-reel and I used to just cut tape, and do all kinds of weird things. He showed me how to do, like, diagonal edits." When they finally met, Booth was using a Casio sampler and Brown was using a Roland 606. They began creating sounds together that were far from the realms of conventional music. Their early influences include the sounds of Meat Beat Manifesto, Renegade Soundwave, Mantronix, Afrika Bambaata, and the Miami Bass scene.
A gig deejaying on a local radio station gave them the opportunity to tentatively expose their music to an audience. They would mix in their own work in sets by better-known artists. They continued hosting a show on Manchester's Kiss 102 FM until they quit due to conflicts with the management regarding the music they should play. In 1991 they released their first single, "Cavity Job." The success of this single encouraged them to send a demo tape to Warp Records, home to other artists--like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher--famous for their experimental electronica. Warp immediately signed them.
From the time the duo first signed with Warp Records, Autechre has been prolific. From 1994 to 2001, they released over 15 albums and EPs. Autechre has also recorded several side projects under the name Gescom, including an EP titled The Sound of Machines Our Parents Used. In 1997, Autechre signed a contract with Nothing Records, a label owned by Nine Inch Nails artist Trent Reznor, bringing them into the American market. Remixes are another mainstay of Autechre's repertoire. The group has remixed tracks for Stereolab, Tortoise, and Skinny Puppy. Autechre has toured the world, including stops throughout Europe, as well as in Japan and Australia. In 2001, they performed at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival. Early in 2001, their Peel Session 2 broke into the top-ten list in Montreal.
When Autechre performs, the duo prefers a stripped-down setup and would rather be placed offstage than centerstage. Booth explained to Amazon.com, "Sometimes we strip down to a really old-school setup, and sometimes we take computers out and do a really unstripped set, just from two black boxes." Their desire to be offstage reflects a basic philosophy of Autechre: their music isn't intended to be dance music, and they aren't searching for a communal experience. This vision is informed by their early experience with dance music and the electronica genre. As Booth related to Wilfried Janis of Gonzo Circus, "We've grown up with club music. But we never listened to it in a club setting. We mainly listened to that music at home, or on our walkman. That may be the single most important reason why we never make music that's geared to the dance experience." Inherent in this attitude is a kind of distrust of the large group experience. As Booth explained to Weidenbaum, "[I]t's not really what we're about.... [I]t's just a different sort of situation that we'd rather see ourselves in. I don't think that our music's that 'instant.'... I think that you have to be really open, and you have to really be into it."
In 1994, Autechre released an EP titled Anti, which included a ten-minute track called "Flutter." "Flutter" is a piece the duo created to protest the Criminal Justice Bill of England--which later became a law--that criminalizes the repetitive beats of the music associated with rave culture. As Booth explained to Joseph Gallivan of the Independent, "We made as many different bars as we could on the drum machine, then strung them all together. Contrary to what's normal, the beat is ever-changing." All the profits from the sale of Anti were donated to charity.
Attempts to describe their music fail as often as they succeed; fans and critics have struggled to put into words sounds that seem to have no basis in reality. Eric Weisbard of the Village Voice wrote, "[T]heir clopped rhythm strings and clipped melody shards epitomize anti-dance intellectual purism.... Autechre tracks, it is said, resemble the blueprints for buildings that could never actually be constructed." In fact, Booth and Brown are intense admirers of both experimental and mainstream architecture. In their own descriptions of their music, the words "texture," "structure," and "rhythm" are used repeatedly. Booth explained to Weidenbaum what they attempt to do when creating their tracks: "[T]ake two completely separate elements and come up with a third in some way. Not necessarily in that exact way, where you're like morphing from one to the other, but in a more subtle way, where you get two completely disparate things and make a third from it."
Booth and Brown reside in Sheffield, England, having relocated from Manchester in 1995. Their music continues to confound and inspire as they try to translate the world of sounds inside their heads to the external realm of recorded music.
by Eve M. B. Hermann
Duo formed in Manchester, England, 1987; released first single, "Cavity Job," 1991; contributed to Warp Records compilation Artificial Intelligence, 1992; released Anti EP, 1994; hosted a radio show called Disengage on Manchester's Kiss 102 FM, 1992-97; moved to Sheffield, England, 1995; signed with American record label Nothing Records, 1997; performed at the Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF), 2001.
- Selected discography
- Incunabula Warp, 1993.
- Anti Warp, 1994.
- Amber Warp, 1994.
- Garbage Warp, 1995.
- Anvil Vapre Warp, 1995.
- Tri Repetae Warp, 1995.
- Chiastic Slide Warp, 1997.
- Cichlisuite Warp, 1997.
- LP5 Warp, 1998.
- EP7 Warp, 1999.
- Peel Session 2 Warp, 2000.
- Confield Warp, 2001.
- Gazette (Montreal), July 30, 1998, p. C9; February 1, 2001, p. C16.
- Gonzo Circus, November/December 1995.
- Independent (London), July 19, 1994, p. 12.
- Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2001.
- Miami New Times, May 17, 2001.
- Sunday Times (London), May 30, 1999.
- Village Voice, August 17, 1999, p. 120.
- "Lego-like," Amazon.com, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ts/feature/3042/107-670864-3822123 (September 8, 2001).
- "More Songs about Buildings," disquiet, http://www.disquiet.com/autechre.html (September 18, 2001).
- "The Shape of a Sound," Nothing Records, http://www.nothingrecords.com/autechre/bio.html (September 18, 2001).
- Warp Records, http://www.warprecords.com/artists/biog.php?artist=ae (September 8, 2001).
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