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    Monday, March 24, 2008

    Instruments of destruction

    The end is near. I don’t know if it’ll arrive via lab-made pandemic, meteorological disaster, or domino effect of nuclear attacks, but I’m giving humanity as we know it three centuries tops. Judging by their new album, Quaristice, electronic duo Autechre would probably offer an even grimmer prognosis. Though their work deceptively begins and ends with rare moments of beauty, almost everything else it contains is bleak and distressing. It seems to foretell a coming dystopia, or maybe even chronicle a current one.

    "Plyphon" in particular recalls classic Autechre, which is to say strange, urgent, difficult, and mechanized. At every turn, it threatens to collapse unto itself; twenty seconds into the track, it suddenly stops, restarts and stops again. Most times, I think my headphone jack has come loose or that my iPod's just died, two possibilities very much in keeping with the music's theme. The frantic, otherworldly glitches that pulsate throughout remind me of severed wires oozing electricity. The furious beats, especially toward the end, sound like fists pounding on a steel vault draining of oxygen. It's suspense laced with doom, breakdown by way of lockdown.

    It also presents a cool paradox: using machines to suggest a trepidation over machinery. There's palpable violence among all the noise, but there's a clear vulnerability too. Machines falter, they fail, they malfunction just like us. They've already figured out the most probable causes of our destruction--and theirs--will be global cyberterrorism or a widespread computer virus. With their advanced intellect, they've calculated what the future will look like, and they've already started mourning the fallout.

    * MP3: "Plyphon" - Autechre from Quaristice [Buy it]

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