Autechre: Confield

Warp, 2001

Confield cover

Well, I finally decided to bite the bullet and review Confield. There’s something about Autechre releases that makes them inherently difficult to review. For one thing, they’re typically fairly inaccessible at first listen—the complex rhythms and subtle melodies tend to grow on me over time. Confield is no exception, especially since so much of it is ambient noise. The rattlings and soft bass thrumming of “Vi Scose Poise,” for example, create an atmosphere that’s almost hypnotic in its repetitiveness. “Cfern” has a more traditional Autechre melody with gorgeous chimes that somehow transform into two jarring repeated notes by the end of the track.

“Pen Expers” is old-school percussion that gradually breaks apart into almost random EP7-style riffing. On “Sim Gishel” the beat seems out of place as it’s drowned out by shifting currents of static. I’d love to hear a beatless version of this one. “Parhelic Triangle” is a bit more interesting, with gong echoes and a noisy beat that seems to disintegrate towards the end. I’m reminded of Emily Dickinson’s intentional breaks in rhythm and rhyme scheme. Sometimes even the most carefully planned patterns fall apart.

“Bine” is a bit too noisy even for my tastes. This track almost demands that you not concentrate on it. It’s a very challenging combination of ugly sounds. Likewise, “Ecdetic Casein” is discordant to the point of unpleasantness.

Thankfully “Uviol” is much more mellow, with some pleasing low frequency patterns, bells, and clicks. For some reason I really get into this track, especially when strange robotic murmuring appears around the three-minute mark. Finally “Lentic Catachresis” has what may well be distorted voices over a simplistic beat that becomes more and more frenzied. It’s got some interesting sounds, but they never seem to gel.

Certainly this isn’t my favorite Autechre album. Its melodies are extremely subtle or non-existent, while much of the instrumentation is melodramatic. (Nearly every track breaks down in some fashion.) I realize Autechre are under a lot of pressure to come up with new sounds since so many artists have appropriated their style. Still, I miss earlier Autechre albums’ sense of melody. There’s something cold and heartless about Confield, and even if some of the tracks grow on me, I have a feeling they’ll always seem distant.

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