Autchre, Snd, DJ Rob Hall - Atlanta, GA

Friday, May 27th, 2005

It's strange to think that I actually debated going to this show.  Ten years ago I would have gotten on a plane to see Autechre if they were playing anywhere within a few hundred miles.  Now, a handful of unmemorable albums and a live show devoid of any stage presence later, I wasn't so sure the venture was necessary.

Rob Hall turned in a fantastic pair of DJ sets that flowed seamlessly between squelchy acid revival and new school electro.  When he got cheeky and dropped an old Autechre record, I couldn't help but think that the best Autechre of the night was going to be coming off of the wrong Rob's hard drive.  SND followed Rob Hall with a scattershot set of hyperactive beats and sample cut ups that reminded me of someone pausing and restarting an old 808 State record hundreds of times per minute with a Nintendo controller.  People tried to dance, and there were a few moments of solid, heavy groove amidst the clutter of broken rhythms, but the maniacal filter sweeps and buzz rolls and digital spasms were what elicited the most cheers.

Autechre took the stage with their usual discretion and launched into patterns of drums reminiscent of their newest record that just left me longing for the depth of the ancient Autechre track Rob Hall had played.  The first ten minutes was all ping pong ball percussion and stabby kick drum thumping that seemed to go nowhere and promised a long night of fighting the doze-off effect of clinically abstracted techno.  With the third track of their set, however, Brown and Booth decided to whip out some surprises including a massive synth swell and some gurgling, bubbly melodies that introduced a more robust and approachable sound than I had anticipated.  Last time Autechre was in town, I got the impression that they were just stewards of a self-regulating process that was building music like techno-organic crystals growing and self-organizing into an infinitely complex lattice.  It was nearly impossible to find a center, but it seemed to always be moving and changing.  This time, the boys seemed to focus less on the construction process and more on the undeniable roots of their musical journey.  Instead of the distant and insincere math noodling, the audience was treated to something akin to a time machine in an alternate universe where rave culture continued to grow and survive and evolve into future dance music rather than glowstick-theater.

Alternating between slower, bass-heavy numbers and hyper-kinetic techno, Autchre proved why they have always been the forerunners of the unabashedly digital dance culture.  They flirted with jazz samples, touches of dark bass manipulation, time-signature warps and some of their own style of brooding minor-key melody, and it all built into an apocalyptic crescendo that demonstrated a willingness to reconnect with the audience that their records don't reflect.  To my surprise, the best Autechre of the night did not come from an eight year old 12"; it came about 45 minutes into their engaging live set.  Now if they could only put out a live album.