Autechre's return to form after the long winded and wildly experimental elseq and NTS Sessions is a stark reminder that the electronic duo can still mastermind and pioneer the IDM genre, nearly 30 years after Incunabula. Paring their offering back to just over an hour of material, SIGN doesn't reinvent the wheel, but provides some gorgeous glitchy synthscapes that underscore the brilliance of Autechre's calculated dissonance.
F7 feels like the spiritual successor to Oversteps' known(1), with shrill and warped lead synths over a brooding background. Coupled with fuzzy distortion crackling away beneath, and this track clearly stands out from the rest. M4 Lema is a fantasic opener, however it feels HEAVILY influenced by the work of Paul Jebanasam in its first half, with its barren, foreboding introduction giving way to gorgeously broken ambient synths. It has an incredible sense of expansion, but if played blind against tracks from Jebanasam's Continuum, it would be indistinguishable. Later on the record, Metaz form8 is a blissful and meditative ambient piece, and while nothing new for Ae or the genre, its tragic modulated keys have an incredibly simple but effective emotional draw.
However, even though SIGN has these aforementioned amazing showcases in techno mastery, its quality decreases significantly by its second half, as many of the tracks devolve into banal loops (si00, gr4, th red a, psin AM) lasting over 6 minutes each. While sonically diverse, the lack of any melodic progression leaves these tracks feeling stretched thin as the duo sees how long they can ride one segment out. It's such a stark difference, but I've felt similarly about many previous Autechre releases, where the band's hunger for obtuse experimentation is ultimately what holds tracks back. Still, these missteps don't take up nearly as much space on the record as the highlights, and the majority of this release stands as a reflective and triumphant celebration of the IDM vanguards Autechre have become.
Least Favourite Tracks:
th red a