Following 2011’s mammoth stock-taking collection EPs 1991-2002, this new double-disc offering from electro pioneers Autechre emphasises that this most perpetually forward-thinking of groups is in no danger of dining out on past glories just yet.
Exai starts in typically uncompromising fashion with Fl_eure (catchy song titles still not a specialty), an unsettling marriage of discordant shards of electronic noise over a sinister, buzzing bassline, which gives way to the hypnotic, menacing groove of irilite (get 0). There remains a real feeling of bristling urban paranoia in these programmed noises, yet on T ess Xi they show a slightly softer, more sultry side, with soulful piano pushing the duo towards an odd kind of modern R&B. Disc Two begins along similar lines, with the laidback 1 1 is clashing with the tetchy nodezsh.
Longtime fans will be pleased to hear that not all of Exai is a mature, intellectual exploration of the possibilities of electronic music. Spl10 is a crazed banger and reminder that, in the future, when the oppressed robot masses join forces to quash their human creators, the soundtrack will undoubtedly be Autechre and their rebel songs for robot hooligans – and there’s little we’ll be able to do about it.