In EvilSponge lore, i am legendary as the one Minion who likes Autechre. They are the source of a joke with us: once, years ago, i had people over for a dinner party. Random acts of drunkenness ensued, and people lingered long after i had wished to head to bedtime. So i put on Tri Repetae, and the aggressively weird noisy beats of that record drove people from my home. So Autechre are known in our circles for making music that makes people flee.
But there is a lot more to them than that. Sure, the career of Autechre has often involved aggressive noise, stuttering beats that no one can dance too, and music that meanders and flows in very non-traditional manners. And yet, they can craft a catchy tune when they want to. Additionally, and perhaps more significantly, what Autechre do is a sort of "electronica R & D". That is, the music that they make is subsequently filtered down to the masses through other artists. Do you think dubstep, with its stuttering beats and strange wandering drones, could exist without Autechre having made Incunabula?
Autechre push boundaries, and i admit that i am always curious to see where they will go next. No Autechre record has ever disappointed, but some have been more listenable than others. Oversteps is one of their most listenable records in years. The music here is mellower, with fewer of the harsher beats and more long drones. Much of this music could serve perfectly in the background for any summer blockbuster these days... For their eleventh record is seventeen years, that is not a bad thing.
The record starts with a slight ambient done in r ess. This is a pleasing bit of formless ambience, and it is harshly and suddenly cut as it ends and ilanders jumps in. This song starts with a minute of harsh, cut up beats and deep bass blasts, before a synth line comes in overtop. Then it becomes a crazy dub tune, with layers of synth dancing over the deep bass rumble and mangled beats.
On known(1), Autechre continue with the deep bass, but here they add in a stuttering vocal line. Autechre do not use recognizable vocal samples very often, so this is kind of a surprise. Not bad though, as this song meanders along under deep bass. This fades into pt2ph8, which is the noisiest and least-focused track on the record. This is a miasma of burbling noises and drones. Not for everyone, but not out of place on an Autechre record.
Fortunately they follow this up with one of the most listenable songs on the disc, qplay, in which a happy little rhythm bounces along under some chiming bass tones. This gets your head going in the same way that Kalpol Introl did all those years ago: it's Autechre's experimental nature reworked for a dance floor. Great stuff. see on see continues the danciness with a clattering beat and some eerie synth blasts.
Treale takes it back to the more abstract, with wandering drones and strange sounds coming in and out of focus. Os Veix3 brings the beats back, here a happy skittering that wanders around for a little while. It's a happy little song, the type of thing R2D2 would sing to himself as he goes about performing some enjoyable task.
O=0 is an interlude of static and unfocused beats. This is a haze of a song, with no sound really staying in focus for three minutes, then a loud keyboard riff comes in. An okay tune, but the one that Autechre follow it up with is excellent. d-sho qub begins with some heavily stuttering beats, until a keyboard drone comes in. It lurches along in a way that really reminds me of Telephasic Workshop by Boards of Canada. Strange to think of an Autechre song reminding me of a BoC song, as the causality arrow normally points the other direction, but there it is.
They follow this up with st epreo, which features a sinister drone underneath tinkling key moving arrhythmically to an interesting effect. Redfall is up next, featuring a lovely keyboard melody alongside a low drone and some odd rumbling noises. On krYlon, a stuttering Telephasic Workshop beat is added back in for a really nice effect. This song pulses along quite nicely.
Finally, the record comes to a close with Yuop, which is a nine minute ambient tune. Any Autechre-ish harshness is faintly buried under soaring synth tones. It's a lovely and surprising end to an Autechre album.
It has been many years, and Autechre continue to impress. I understand that this will not be to everyone's liking, but i really think there is something fascinating and beautiful to be found on this record, and in the career of Autechre in general. Oversteps is a fusion of harsh electro sounds with beautiful ambient music. It covers a lot of different territory, and even though not everything on it will appeal to all listeners, i do think that Autechre have created something worthwhile.