IT WOULDN'T BE a stretch to liken the music of Autechre to aliens attempting to make contact with Earth through transmissions in an unfamiliar, exotic language, which discloses the hidden secrets of a faraway universe.
But in their own words, Autechre are just two regular guys—Rob Brown and Sean Booth, from Rochdale, England, outside of Manchester—who are trying to give solid form to the strange sounds swimming through their subconscious. In a world where the careers of most electronic artists wax and wane within a decade or less, Autechre's musical orbit has lasted more than 25 years—evidence that they've tapped into the unconscious minds of their expansive fanbase as well.
Perhaps it's the inevitable outcome of the duo's ability to draw on each other's respected opinion in order to sharpen their ideas, like a dyadic cyclone in sync. Brown sheds light on Autechre's process: "We used to do tracks for each other, and literally just sort of be awash with a certain style of our own, and then end up honing that down into a bit more of an acute thing. That's usually when you go to put something out, when you're really clear that this is actually really interesting and hopefully different."
Booth adds, "I think when we were younger, there was this side that a lot of making music is about—at least it was back then and it still is to a point—like, about not doing things as much as it is about doing things. It's almost like a negative space thing... you can kind of define yourself by these weird rules, and that's been a lot of what's shaped our sound."
It's no secret that modern music-making methods have evolved, and Autechre have kept up, pushing the leading edge of what is technologically possible. Their creative arsenal includes the highly customizable visual programming languages MaxMSP and SuperCollider, which offer methods of output limited only by artistic discretion.
"When I'm in the studio, it's more about discovery, really, than invention," says Booth. "I'll find something interesting that I didn't know would happen or that I would like, and that's much more interesting to me than something where I've sort of tried to express myself or I've got some grand idea that I'm trying to realize. I think you get better ideas that way than if you come in with some preconceived thing that you've probably conceptualized in a framework that's been informed largely by music that already exists."
"I think it definitely gives rise to actual personality in what you do as well," adds Brown, "because you are just open to new things constantly, and I think your taste shapes where you go with that."
In the past, Brown and Booth would often create an entirely new set for live performances rather than replicate the complex musical arrangements from their recordings. But ever forward-thinking, Autechre's most recent releases have seen them devise a way of real-time recording that favors a seamless integration between process and form.
"That boundary is sort of gone now," says Booth, "because we want to get to a point where we can just spit an album out in real time. I'd say we are close to it, if not actually there already."