on 22 November 2007
Amber' is a remarkably atmospheric record - pure electronica with a cold, programmed, robotic feel which is nevertheless eerily compelling.
The opening track `Foil' sets the scene superbly. Mechanical pulsing drones are overlaid with unconventional bursts of sound and percussion to create an unlikely but effective melody.
There is beauty too on this record - `Silverside' features glacial synth washes sweeping over heavily-treated babbling vocal effects and harsh mechanical beats. The track ends with a lovely synth flourish. The following track, `Slip' has almost perky beats and frolicking percussion.
But the over-riding feeling to the record is of a robotic dystopia which conjures up `Blade Runner' style visions. The sound is cold: `Further' is driven by dripping sounds which could be melting glaciers, but `Amber' is haunting and really gets under your skin. The strong closing track `Teartear' is brutal and menacing and sounds like a legion of battle robots on the march. Overall, it sounds hard to believe that this record wasn't made entirely by machines and that is a compliment to how well its atmosphere works.
My only criticism would be the length. At 74 minutes `Amber' is too long and its slight lack of variety shows through. Even so, I like it very much.
on 25 February 2008
"Slip" is easily one of the greatest songs ever devised by humans; a triumphant, lethargic stab at contentment, with one of the most effective melodies you'll ever hear. It's a timeless, genreless track that not only sounds unique in the Autechre discography, but is practically a genre in itself. When I listen to it now, memories of a holiday I went on two years ago flash back with force, as I would listen to it obsessively back then; several times a day, just basking in the sun (I live in England, just so you understand the novelty factor) and trying to focus my attention on just one of the layers that make up this song, but always failing as it flooded my mind with its aimless perfection.
The rest of it? Man, there's just no way I can evaluate it fairly. It was the opening, claustrophobic synth of "Foil" that put me off this album for so long; it was rare, during those halcyon days, that I would dare venture past that opener. The raindrops that announce the entrance of "Further" always amazed and confused me whilst walking down dry, dusty Portuguese streets, as it contrasted completely with my surroundings by giving the impression of being in a forgotten cave with water falling from the ceiling. Well, until the roller coaster screams demolish any chance of you have of forming a clear mental picture, that is. And that's just where Amber succeeds; for such visual music, your mind rarely gets the chance to settle, producing a dream-like effect of various images and senses flashing before you, constantly out the reach of tangibility. I think I may have synesthesia, come to think of it. Nothing imposes itself on the listener here, so you're on own. "Yulquen" is the track that escaped from Richard's grasp during the construction of Selected Ambient Works II, although it comes through much clearer and lighter than anything from that well-loved, well-worn album. Every track deserves attention though, by both wandering minds and focused ones, although I fear going into too much detail may spoil the delights of this album for anyone new to this recordworld.
In a recent interview, Autechre described this album as "cheesy" and insisted that this only took six months to produce. This perhaps explains why Amber stands alone in their career, but will never account for the quality of it. Heck, I feel heat resonating from my speakers when this plays. What's up with that?
on 7 October 2003
One of my favourite electronic albums, were I to try and seperate everything by genre. This album builds on the ideas of Incunabula, but irons out both its predecessor's faults: the sounds used here don't sound anywhere near as cheap or dated as Incunabula, and the songs are all perfect length. Nothing drags on, nothing pulls out too early.
Now, these things are good. The structure of a good album is there. Luckily, Amber provides the content, as well. By far the band's most ambient work, truly gorgeous sweeping synths wash over beats which pre-echo the complex blips and bangs of their later rhythms, but are far less intrusive, and complement the synths perfectly.
As with Incunabula, this is definitely a mood album. Each piece adds something to the very cold, mysterious atmosphere the previous has made. Whether it's a lonely mountaintop, a mysterious spacescape or the silhouette of a motorway leading to an industrial city (the moment I knew I loved this album was listening on the train to London one evening), its existence conjours something cold.
Luckily, each track stands up on its own as well as being part of the album. Particular standouts include the incredibly subtle Yulquen, the hypnotic symphony of Silverside, and most of all, Piezo, a track which captures the whole album in its nine minute run from fast beats to freezing synthscapes. The piece is amongst my favourite songs ever, and quite rightly so.
I'm hoping one day, Booth and Brown will match the heights of this album. They're never going to do anything that sounds like it, but maybe they'll do something as strong and enjoyable. For now, I'll keep this, with Tri Repetae a very close second.
on 9 July 2012
This album has been a permanent fixture on my playlist for the past six years or so but I've never had the urge to write a review of it until purchasing it as a cd recently, replacing the low bit-rate download I had been enjoying all that time.
By now, you're probably aware that Autechre have a few different sounds - Amber is some of their warmer, more spacial material but still delivers all the duos signature interlacing clicks and rhythms with a good dose of synth.
Its similar to Tri Repetae (another banger) in this regard although it's a bit less aggressive.
The album is extremely listenable, with no surprise tracks consisting of blares of static like one would find on their later material. You can just have it on and enjoy it at any volume. Whenever I listen to Amber, I hear it slightly differently; it's extremely rich and atmospheric both with rhythms and swatheing synth.
What's fascinating about it (as well as Tri Repetae) is that a lot of the tracks seem to occupy different soundstages at once - not just by having different reverbs on various layers but with the pitch changes on each sound. This is Autechre's signature sound and Amber is made of it. The soundscapes are enormous at times but then they seem to expand and contract with their own rhythm and interact with one-another, with cozy crackles and bass that decays into clicks tieing it all together.
The low bit-rate version I first fell in love with all that time ago was good enough on it own merits but it became the only album of theirs that I didn't own on cd, so I grabbed a copy a few months ago and as soon as it came on, you could hear how the whole album just opened-up. This genre of music really benefits from a decent bit-rate, just bumping it up to 320 Kbps will make a world of difference for percussion sounds. A decent pair of headphones will go a long way, as with most music that hasn't been subjected to the noise wars but that is a rabbit hole I'll leave to you to fall down...
Speaking of headphones, one quickly becomes accustomed to hearing Autechre exclusively through them as its not exactly dinner party music but the other day, the album came on at my local climbing centre which has an alright sound system, considering. Hearing it play in a big, open space was interesting as the acoustics of the building seemed to suit the cavernous nature of Amber. It certainly put a smile on the face.
In short, if you don't yet own this album and are a fan of Autechre, you'd be doing yourself a favour getting the cd version and ripping it to a lossless codec to fully hear what this has to offer.
This magnificent album has an utterly unique sound even within Autechre's body of work. It may be electronic music but the sound is anything but clinical with its strangely compelling textures and beats. Evoking vivid imagery, the mood varies from eerie and distant to weirdly inspirational and delicately moving.
The album opens with the whooshing synths & crackles of Foil, while in Montreal the percussion is in the foreground with the wistful synths adding desolate melodies somewhere behind, far away. The symphonic Silverside has some muted vocal samples, while tracks like Further evoke the pitter-patter of raindrops and other nature sounds.
Not all tracks have a beat & tempo shifts occur throughout; Slip is mid-tempo to fast, Glitch with its echoing horn-like sounds & the warbling percussive Piezo have a fast beat, while the bleepy Nine and delicate Yulquen unfold at a slow pace. The complex arrangement of Nil allows for rhythmic segments alternating with pure ambient synthesizer sounds.
The closest I can come to a comparison would be to the instrumental work of Peter Baumann like Trans Harmonic Nights, and then only to a certain extent, as Amber is charmingly diverse. I suppose one could describe this as classical electronic music, and Amber certainly is a classic in more than one sense of the term.
on 2 December 2002
To my mind, 'Amber' stands alone as one of those rare works which sounds utterly unlike anything else anywhere; Autechre themselves have not since produced anything else to match it for sheer emotive ability or grace.
This album, with its crystalline sounds and delicate layering, manages to express spaces which cannot exist in the 'Real World'(?) with an extraordinary lucidity, a dream brightness... There are moments when emotions are communicated and experienced which have no definable place in daily life; despite its age this music is still some of the most genuinely futuristic that I have ever heard.
Favorite moment: in track 6, 'piezo', when the bizarre and previously slightly annoying rhythm carries the listener into a vast, warm, burnished machine-jungle twilight and suddenly tesselates, makes sense as a part of the whole... something between melancholy and trancendence.
If all this sounds overblown, then try these two words.(They've been used before, but they're true):
on 23 May 2000
Amber took two or three tries to get into, but from then on it has spent a lot of its time on the CD player. I've never heard anything else with such a serene, crystalline and alien sound to it. Later Autechres can perhaps overwhelm you with sounds, but Amber is understated perfectly,and is an elegant and uncluttered set of soundscapes. Autechre have headed in a different musical direction since, which is a heartbreaker.
on 30 April 2002
Ambient music at its very very best. This has to be one of my very favourite all time albums and ranks alongside Harold Budd/Brian Eno's The Pearl in terms of subtlety, delicacy and beauty. On the whole, Autechre make music that appeals to a warped sense of intellectualism - being rather cold and industrial. This album is the one album in their canon that bucks the trend. This album is full of emotion and sparkle. Lovely.
on 5 January 2006
There’s some phonological coincidence at work here, I think. The word “Autechre” is a cousin to “austere,” to “technical” and “architecture,” and this might give someone an idea of what to expect… The name of the record, of course, suggests something organic which has fossilized, and has become inorganic stone: beautiful and unyeilding.
Amber is not entirely unemotional in fact – there are glimpses and quiet moments, such as the track “Yulquen,” whose restraint and quiet beauty is actually quite moving, both like and not at all like “Foil,” which is primal and mechanised and deeply impressive if it cannot be considered beautiful – every track on the album coheres and belongs, and each is a part of the same arctic wilderness even if it is differently described.
(Besides, given the prevalence of “false colour” in music, that is, the forced and eventually tiresome emotional content, it is refreshing to hear something which is as stark and austere and as colourless as that arctic landscape, and just as beautiful.)
Their final album before they got too harsh for my liking. This album is considered their best by many fans of the group, but I'm sure fans of the harsher material like 'Tri Repetae' would have something to say about that! (I think 'Incunabula' is their best anyway!)
But for me, this is a snapshot in time. Warm melodies combine with shimmering electronics to form magical electronic pieces. Sure, there are harsh and abrasive elements on here too, and they are also enjoyable. It's a perfect balance.