Concert Reviews

Autechre and the Saturday Night Anti-Show

The rumor going around was that Autechre would play in total darkness. This proved to be mostly true: The room and stage lights went down at the beginning of the band's roughly hour-long set. Only the running lights on the stairs, the bright-green exit signs on either side of the stage and some LEDs on equipment on and near the stage illuminated anything at all. It was the opposite of the average EDM show these days in almost every respect, except for the volume. It was not melodic; it was more textural. It was not beat-driven, even as the heaviest beats heard in recent memory were part of the composition. The focus was entirely on the flow and atmosphere of Autechre's crafted (partially improvised) pieces.

If Autechre did play from a record, who knew which one, really? Did it matter? For some in the nearly capacity crowd it did, and a few people seemed disappointed that the experience wasn't a visual as well as audial experience. Though witnessing the music in the dark is a visual experience of its own. 

But the relative dark took the focus off what the members of Autechre look like or how they're making the sounds happen. It was just pure sound, and at times the low end pushed beyond the capacity of the sound system. You could hear in the speakers struggling and clattering with some of the frequencies. Chances are that, at home, one does not have the speaker capacity brought in for this sort of event. And that's what made it so valuable to be there, being flooded with such finely crafted bits of aural artifacts arranged in pieces that might loosely be called music. And yet there was rhythm enough for people to dance if they were not expecting conventional time signatures.

At the end of the night, the lights came up and one-half of Autechre — Rob Brown — toasted the audience in thanks, pulling back the curtain at the end in a very human and humble gesture, acknowledging people for being willing to stick around despite not having the visual stimulation that is most often part of any show these days. It was a bit of an experiment, and for many the results were mixed. But no one there will forget having seen, or rather experienced, such a legendary and prominent electronic act. Perhaps that was the point all along. 

Critic’s Notebook

Bias: Autechre was one of those acts I've loved for years but never assumed I'd get to catch.

By the Way: Cygnus from Dallas, Texas provided some bright sonic colorings and creative beat-making in the first section of the show. Rob Hall, who some may know as being a part of Gescom and Skam Records, filled out the night with highly percussive pieces.