By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
"We're not embarrassed to say we love those guys at all," says Romulo del Castillo, co-owner of Schematic and half of the recording outfit Phoenecia.
"Love 'em to death," underscores business/music partner Josh Kay.
"What's so inspirational for us is their work ethic. They don't let the industry get to them at all," del Castillo adds. "They're really outside of all that stuff."
Introduced to Autechre's work in 1993 through the Warp Records Artificial Intelligence series, the Phoenecia guys (then known as Soul Oddity) met Booth and Brown on their first U.S. tour, and the four became fast friends. Brown, unaware that Soul Oddity already was with Astralwerks, suggested del Castillo and Kay sign with Skam, a U.K. label run by Autechre's ex-flatmate Andy Maddocks. Since then Phoenecia has opened for Autechre on each of its domestic tours and is producing this week's show at the Knights of Columbus Hall.
The extent of Autechre's influence, not only locally but in home studios across the world, is especially impressive given the pair's refusal to evangelize. Booth and Brown have steadfastly insisted there is no explanation behind their work since they started doing interviews after the release of their debut album, 1993's Incunabula. They're musicians, they say; they "grow" records. (Even this simple declaration can be problematic, however; Booth and Brown have said a number of times over the years that they're not musicians at all.) Either way they've tried to put it as flatly as possible: They spend all day almost every day in the studio; stuff comes out. Analysis about the particulars is neither here nor there.
Past articles on Autechre (painstakingly retyped and saved for posterity on Websites such as www.autechre.nu) are peppered with quotes like "I can't really elaborate. It's quite difficult to explain, really"; "Don't ask me why, that's just the way it is"; and "I wouldn't really know where to start discussing it. We don't really talk about music that much, to be honest with you."
Confield, the group's recently released sixth album, marks Autechre's tenth year of sidestepping questions about their music. This time around Booth, who has done most of the talking over the years, has hinted that they'd rather stop answering questions altogether. On May 1 he told the German Website DE:BUG: "I got better things to do than to justify what I do all of the time. I never have time to do what I do. I am just thinking about saying no more. I don't know if there is a point in doing interviews anymore." (In fact questions e-mailed that same day for this story had not been answered as of press time.) Even as far back as the mid-Nineties, obsessive Autechre completists and track-title theoreticians prompted the pair to etch "Fuck Off Trainspotters" into one of their records, weary of the meticulous scrutiny of their every move.
Predictably the distance the group has tried to wedge between itself and its following has only bolstered its hardest corps. A certain mystique arises out of oblique statements such as "I'd call what we're doing music" (Booth) and the cryptic-yet-almost-intelligible naming conventions for their songs: "VI scose poise," "sim gishel," "rae," "yulquen," "pule," "under BOAC." In many ways Autechre's extramusical legacy is begging to be nitpicked and postulated upon: the hidden track at the beginning of their 1999 release, ep7 (arrived at by rewinding before song one plays); their limited-edition twelve-inchers on the boutique Skam label under the name Gescom, marked with Braille; the MiniDisc-only release of 88 tracks meant to be seamlessly shuffled; the software program they developed that generates a new Autechre song every time it's loaded. This is the stuff of which obsessions are made, especially for a core audience long-time Autechre fan and interviewer Heath K. Hignight aptly describes as "kids with stay-at-home system admin jobs, or tucked away in a cube farm with headphones on."
Autechre's arrival in the public eye roughly coincided with the advent of the Internet as a mainstream communication tool, and the phenomenon of the act's hyperinformed fan base is a clear byproduct. Back when the Net first began seeping beyond the walls of academia, psychotropic druggies, wide-eyed ravers, and ambient music, deviants formed a community at the site www.hyperreal.org, which is dedicated to fringe topics. In 1993 the intelligent dance music mailing list was founded, according to Hyperreal, "as a platform for the discussion of a wave of what was termed “Intelligent Techno' originating mainly from the U.K." The lightning rod for the list was the Sheffield label Warp Records' Artificial Intelligence compilation, which spawned the first music genre named for an online entity -- idm (often appearing in print with the designations "so-called" or "for lack of a better name").