Autechre: Sign review

As the devastating and the downright uncanny both become normalised, few things still have the power to surprise in 2020. That said, few would have expected Autechre to conjure up an album-length album, actually conceptualised and sequenced true to the format. The Rochdale-originated duo’s recent output consists of weighty folder dumps, marathon radio residencies and other swathes of experimental electronics, club deviations and wee-hours abstractions. These exciting, befuddling drops are often left raw and unsorted for fans to construct their own canons from the pair’s extensive discography. Now relocated and working remotely from one another long before lockdown, Autechre have been mining away at a sound influenced more temporally than geographically: electro, bleep techno, funk and old-school hip-hop styles of the 80s and 90s continue to shape the direction of the Warp Records mainstays.


Autechre: Sign album cover.

Autechre: Sign album cover. Photograph: Warp Records

It’s the melodies that take prominence on Sign, a dense and viscous record with synthetic textures that hold great depth, lingering chords that leave residue, and moody, submerged atmospheres that are well realised. M4 Lema proves a strong opener with its corrosive stutter and the rifts of negative space that open and fold within, mirrored by a momentous, slow-burning closer in R Cazt. Yet there are moments in between that don’t hit at all: perhaps the aesthetic of sci-fi dystopia has lost its sheen given how long society has culturally occupied that space. Or perhaps the environment for experimental music has simply shifted: it’s possible to glimpse hints of Ben Vince’s jazz-electronics on the record, the aquatic techno of Drexciya, echoes of videogame soundtracks and melodic phrases from romantic grime instrumentals. There are times when Sign truly soars, though it never manages to eclipse what’s now a crowded sonic milieu.

The Guardian

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