During the '90s, before Autechre's Sean Booth and Rob Brown became fully enamored of their audio software, they were masters of electronic composition. They built tracks that were epic and slowly unfolding ("Bike") or jarring and tight ("Eutow"), but always original and usually surprisingly infectious. After pursuing their theories of digital noise down a rabbit hole for several years, they returned to what had made their name with an uncharacteristically bright record in 2003 (Draft 7.30) and a continuation of that sound with 2005's Untilted.
Still known to many as the band partly responsible for Radiohead's decision to ditch guitars on Kid A, Autechre have taken an increasingly abstract path since 1995's harmonious classic, Tri Repetae. Untilted, their eighth album, is pitched somewhere between the skewed sonics of Confield and the more restrained Draft 7.30, and it's likely to alienate all but their most ardent fans. Fractured, seemingly random beats are their cornerstones, with precious melodies hidden under many layers of noise.
It’s impossible to deny that Autechre’s eighth full-length is a partial retreat from the ear-splitting assault and hyper-complex rhythmic abstractions on 2000’s Confield. Untilted’s sound is warmer and rounder, but at the expense of sonic and rhythmic scope, initially a disappointment. It’s nice to report, though, that repeated auditions expose a new tightness in composition.