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Ae trainspotters aroundthe world are aware that it's been some time since new material hassurfaced from Sean Booth and Rob Brown. In mid-1999 they released thedifficult, confusing "EP7," which left quite a few people nonplused,others either irritated or delighted. Consequently, rabid Autechre fans(such as myself) are very curious about this new release: a second setof Peel Sessions to complement the first set recorded in 1995.
Describing the way Autechre sounds hasn't been easy since theirmind-blowing 1995 release, "Tri Repetae." As far as anyone can figure,the closest Autechre get to occupying a genre is probably electro ordetroit techno. But Autechre have a seemingly bottomless bag of trickswhen it comes to sonic manipulation: blender-style waves of distortion,sliced-and-diced vocal gibberish, bursts of deafening static, too-fastspidery percussion, low-pitched hums and thumps — and occasionaldelicate, lucid-dreaming melodies made from synths or strings.
There's one of these right at the start of the 9-minute "Gelk," thefirst of four tracks on "Peel Sessions 2." Accompanied by a tentativetapping, it grips you by the hair and pulls you all the way down thescale into a pair of earth-shaking bass tones, then repeats itself, andafter a few seconds of this everything starts echoing in the mostinteresting way. It's classic Autechre, straight off of "ChiasticSlide" or "LP5" — but then, three minutes in, the song shifts without ahitch into what sounds like a lunatic plucking at a detuned grandpiano, those thick hums stuttering and twisting as the pace slows, doesa pirouette, and turns itself into a blunted breakbeat. At the sevenminute mark, the beat disappears, gongs ringing as a totally differentmelody is eked from the high strings.
Irritatingly, this masterpiece is followed up by "Bifil," a juddering,thumping juggernaut of a song improved only by the eventual inclusionof an alien whimpering and babbling behind all the noise. Hit fastforward and save yourself the mental effort of trying to make sense ofit. Next comes "Gaekwad," which demonstrates Autechre's unique abilityto fashion a groove out of the sound of a bag of marbles dumped outonto a glass tabletop. Synthetic chimes and bells ring in thebackground while the beats skitter all over the place, speeding up andslowing down, growing louder and softer at random. The track gets acreepy edge as warped samples of dogs barking and laughter filter intowards the end. Lastly there's "19 Headaches," another bit ofunfathomable, or perhaps improvisational ("Quick! We need another trackto round out the set!") Autechre jitteriness. Lots of finger-walking upand down keyboards and weird, shuffling percussion, completely bizarreand almost unlistenable.
For folks who already like the duo, this bargain-priced EP is worth itjust for "Gelk" — fanatics on the other hand would probably somethingmore from the other tracks as well. Those new to Autechre, "LP5" andthe insane masterpiece that is "Tri Repetae" are waiting for you — buyone of them instead and save yourself the trouble of sitting throughthe filler.