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First True Love Affair: Autechre’s NTS Sessions
Jackie Thompson , August 16th, 2018 14:50

In April, Autechre gave us eight hours of new music across four shows on beloved London radio station NTS. Warp are releasing the sessions next week on vinyl, CD and digital; here Jackie Thompson explores her love for the experimental Rochdale pair

I’m relatively new to Autechre - it was well into the 2000s before I heard them. I’d be in friends’ cars or flats listening to music and 99 per cent of the time when I’d ask who it was the answer was Autechre. (The other one per cent was Lego Feet or Gescom. And then there was the time I first heard ‘O’Chuma’, assumed it was Autechre and was surprised to learn that it was in fact Bola. Rochdale is the best.)

Now my brother gets me Autechre on vinyl for Christmas every year, has done for the past five years. It started with Tri Repetae and has become a family tradition. Probably my most romantic experience ever involved listening to Tri Repetae. I was sat in a Vauxhall Vectra on the top of a hill on Ashworth Moor overlooking Rochdale and Oldham with my then-boyfriend. We watched lights slowly come on across the valley as day turned into night with ‘Eutow’ playing on the car stereo. It was beautiful. ‘Eutow’ is beautiful. Now I play Tri Repetae when I’m deciding what to play, and when I know what to play. The opening track, ‘Dael’, is on my evergrowing lists of music you can ride a horse to. It’s also the exact tempo I like to dance to. And the last minute or so of that song is perfect for dozing off to at night. I live with this music. I hear the distortion sound at the beginning of ‘Rotar’ all the time, walking around outside, sitting about inside.

I play Autechre more than any other band. I obsess over certain songs. I’ll listen over and over to hear one sound that you get for a split second and then don’t hear again. There’s a noise (20 seconds in) on ‘Cloudline’ on Exai that is up there with some of my favourites. It’s a sound that’s hard to explain: it’s like trying to recreate the sound of a heartbeat or a frog inside your throat and then recording it through your throat using a voice box microphone and then putting some echo chamber or reverb on it. (Other favourite sounds include a group of mates clapping in a ginnel and anything played through my friend Hen’s Italian transistor guitar amp.) ‘Cloudline’ is also perfect when you mix it into Loose Ends’ ‘Hangin On A String’, I bet.

Listening to them, I’ve been thinking about their process, trying to imagine it. Their decision-making is unfathomable. Then I realised that it doesn’t matter; they’re just lucky to have each other and communicate so well together.

I listened to the NTS Sessions live in April, and I’ve listened to them over and over ever since. (I’m looking forward to getting the vinyl at Christmas, cheers David.) Everything about ‘gonk steady one’ gets me in the guts. The sounds in ‘violvoic’ are both frhenzsolthy and bowwnechey - it’s what you’d hear walking through the volcanic landscape on Idunn Mons, if you then put those sounds through an Italian transistor guitar amp. (Other NTS Sessions tracks that sound as though they’re going through the Italian transistor guitar amp: ‘debris_funk’ and ‘I3 ctrl’.) The distant glhripston sounds on ‘turbile epic casual, stpl idle’ are what I imagine an approaching electrical storm on HAT-P-116 sounds like.

I’m a rhythm person mostly, I rarely pick up on lyrics, and I’m not really into 4/4 unless it’s Warp artists. I want everything to be 90bpm or slower. I’m into dancehall and I hear loads of dancehall in Autechre’s stuff: I think that’s what I pick up on the most whenever I listen to them. Sly & Robbie, Steely & Clevie. When I listen to ‘xflood’ on the NTS Sessions, I think Autechre should really have a float at Notting Hill Carnival. You’d have to do it at night and turn off all the streetlights.

Autechre gigs are the only places where I don’t have to close my eyes to dance, because it’s always pitch black. I’ve seen them in Berlin, Glasgow, Manchester: pitch black every time. There’s never many women at their gigs though - one night I missed an Autechre show because I was really ill, and my friend Julia phoned begging me to come down because she’d counted ten women in the whole place. If I could go back to any of the gigs I’ve missed, though, I’d go to the ATP that they curated in 2003. Every Autechre obsessive I’ve met brings that weekend up as the best things they’ve been to.

I was at Andy Maddocks’ house on Christmas Day night a few years back and we were listening to loads of brilliant rap. And some not-so-brilliant rap: I was made up that me and Andy both have Derek B’s ‘Bullet From A Gun’ on vinyl. If I knew how to sample, there’s a bit in ‘Human Time Bomb’ that I would use on everything. But I spent most of the night talking to Sean Booth about our shared obsession with Steve Coogan (sometimes I daydream of an Autechre-Coogan collaboration).

In the car on the way home, my boyfriend told Sean about mine and my brother’s Christmas tradition, and I was mortified because I thought it might sound a bit too fanny (as in too much like a fan) but Sean just said, “Let me know if you want anything.” I’ve not plucked up enough courage to ask him for my Autechre hamper yet.