Manchester’s Warehouse Project is often described as an unmissable experience for any and all fans of rave culture, and Autechre’s set in Old Granada this weekend was certainly a unique experience to say the least.
The Rochdale-based duo were preceded by Russell Haswell, described by one YouTube user as a “modular gnob [sic].” His set was an electrifying array of Noise music coupled with a massive light show, and whilst I am still recovering from the hearing loss suffered during his set, it was still immensely enjoyable. His set showed a huge level of variety and confidence that few others in the niche genre have mastered. It was, like Autechre’s, made up entirely of original, on the spot improvised Noise, although he did end with a more Trance-influenced piece which got a massively positive response from the crowd.
The atmosphere during Autechre’s show, by contrast, was one of anxiety and claustrophobia. There are few artists who could so successfully conjure up a mood like this live, and indeed only a small few of those who could pull it off would have the confidence to actually do it. Autechre, however, manage effortlessly to attain and embrace this mood, and even give it their own unique flair as well.
Firstly, they performed with the stage lights completely turned off, although the darkness itself wasn’t complete; intense lights from phones and fire exits signs still lit the room, and the effect was positively nauseating. The music itself provided a similar effect, sounding less like the experimental IDM that they’re known for, and more like the ambient soundtrack to a sci-fi horror film. At the same time, one can’t truly describe it as ambient, as most typical ambient music is not loud enough to make your skeleton vibrate.
Fans wanting to hear tracks from this year’s critically-acclaimed ‘elseq’ record, or even tracks from older records like ‘Tri Repetae’ or ‘Amber’, were to be disappointed. The entire set was made up on the spot, and barely resembled anything on the band’s studio records, focusing instead on dark, moody soundscapes, with the end result sounding like John Carpenter’s attempt at Glitch music.
Their set was only an hour long, being quite suddenly cut off at the end without warning. Whether or not an improvised soundscape was actually a good decision is hard to say. The crowd stood still for almost the entire set, including the front rows. There were also large groups of people exiting the event who thought that significant portions of the set had been created by random noise generators. I’m not entirely convinced that they’re wrong.
As an artistic experiment, Autechre’s show certainly brought something unique to the table, but whether it was enjoyable is debatable.