2008 Electronic Catch-Up – Autechre, M83, Air France

Autechre – Quaristice


The brevity of most of the songs here might be off-putting to long-time fans expecting longer songs but this has long been one of my favourite Autechres. At 20 tracks (versus the average Autechre album at around 10 songs and the same total duration), it plays like a best-of compilation, and while the world-creation might not be as realized, I’d argue it’s just as immersive through the sheer variety of sounds. Here, you get ambient landscapes (“Altibzz,” “paralel Suns,” “Notwo” and “Outh9x”); hyperactive beat-driven numbers (“The Plc”, “plyPhon,” and “chenc9”) to late-period Aphex Twin (“Perlence”’s intro, “Simmm” and “bnc Castl,” which sounds like “Windowlicker”’s beginning fed through a pinball machine). And if the revolving door of sounds wasn’t appealing enough by itself, some of these are the most evocative the duo have ever been: the broad brushstrokes of “Altibzz” is them at their most beautiful, doing the breath-of-warmth-in-sterile-worlds better than a lot of Boards of Canada; “IO”’s more playful riff playing against the rumbling hell underneath it (with tiny fragments of robotic vocals trying to rise and failing); “Tankakern,” the most traditional beat on the album, but with a pensive darkness underlying the whole thing continuing through “rale.” It doesn’t all work: the industrial factory of “Fol3” get stale; “SonDEremawe,” “Steels” and “Theswere” (too simple a synth-string melody that 2 minutes feels a bit longer) neither work individually nor in the context of the whole.

George Starostin to close: “The whole thing should be played loud, in headphones, preferably in a dark room, and eventually these so­nic waves will flush you out in outer space, rather than cram you inside your dusty computer processor.”


M83 – Saturdays = Youth


This is the most hipster album cover, which is fitting since the phrase “Saturdays = Youth” is something a hipster might say, since shouting “YOLO” is way too mainstream. It does remind of me of the B-52’s self-titled cover, except that none of these kids are part of Gonzalez’s music-making team. The guy on the very left looks a little lost, like he was on his way to a Halloween party when Gonzalez stopped him and asked him to be a part of it all, and the blonde he’s pecking looks genuinely upset he’s getting his lips on her cheek. Maybe they were chapped or something. Meanwhile, the guy in the graphic wifebeater looks earnestly out of place of what could have been a Club Monaco catalog (more than the skeleton outfit), and I think that the guy in the forefront needs to consider purchasing jeans that are 1 or 2 inches longer and then roll them, but what the hell do I know? The only thing that’s missing is someone in a cardigan or turtleneck.

Anyway, I’m of the opinion that M83 is one of the rare bands that got better as they went on; no one talks about their debut, Anthony Gonzalez only started writing tangible hooks for Before the Dawn Heals Us (whereas there are none on Dead Cities, Red Seas & Dead Ghosts), those hooks only became noteworthy on Saturdays = Youth and those hooks only became worthy on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. In other words, this is the best M83 album at this point in time. Those noteworthy hooks: “Kim & Jessie” (massive-sounding drumrolls, ethereal vocals), “Up!” and “We Own the Sky.”

I’m also of the opinion that M83 is one of the rare bands that was truly and completely overrated by Pitchfork. The songs that I just listed aren’t perfect: “Kim & Jessie” has no business going past 3 minutes, let alone 5; you’ll get more out of the Kate Bush songs that “Up!” tries to be than “Up!” itself (the way newcomer Morgan Kibby pronounces “hounds of law” like “hounds of love” doesn’t help); the two parts of “We Own the Sky” don’t really sound connected.

Elsewhere, you have Gonzalez repeating “Hurts your face” over a decent piano part for almost 4 minutes on “You, Appearing,” Morgan Kibby pretending to be a goth teen for all the goth teens to empathize with on “Graveyard Girl” (“The cemetery is my home / I want to be a part of it”; “Then I’ll read poetry to the stones / Maybe one day I could be one of them”; “I’m fifteen years old / And I feel it’s already too late to live / Don’t you?” are you real lines) and an eleven minute ambient closer where you wonder why you’re not listening to Brian Eno.


 Air France – No Way Down [EP]

Euh, it sounds like a fun time to listen to while stoned and on a beach house, but listening to it sober? Everything blends together with the exception of “Collapsing at Your Doorstep” (“Sort of like a dream; no, better” is basically their call to existence); “June Evenings” fades after the horn intro (is the voice in the outro saying “bomboclat”???); “No Excuses” is a nice string hook, and later, keyboard hook but that’s really it. “Maundy Thursday” is nothing more than a stage-setter and “Windmill Wedding” has these grand strings orchestrating what sounds like a girl getting some, and then a shapeless coda for its second half.


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