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  • Exai
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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 16 March 2013
I'm not a massive electronica fan but I've spent the last 12 months 'giving it a go', only to be disappointed most of the time. However Autechre's music draws me in, I'm absolutely amazed at the sounds they create. When someone plays a tune on a guitar, I get it. I understand the concept and how that works but how the hell do Autechre create their music and how do you describe it? Exai is a 2 disc, 2 hour journey to another musical solar system. Layer upon layer of multiple sounds reward the careful listener....eventually. This is my 6th Autechre album, some are easier on the ear than others. If you are new to their music I think Exia is a good place to start. Others may suggest starting with 'Ambre', a great album but doesn't prepare the listener for future exploration of their excellent music imo.
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Sean Booth and Rob Brown aka Autechre return with their 11th album `Exai', over 2 hours of the most beautiful, complex, and uncompromising music you will listen to this year.

The palpitating `Fleure' opens the album, straight away you know its an Autechre album! A barrage of hostile beats and rhythms clash, mutate and multiply. After 3 minutes, a clearing appears and momentary headspace is allowed before blasts of digital percussion and menacing noise unsettle you only for the briefest moment before the track fades. Autechre really do know how to put you through an emotional wringer, and this is only the first track! The majestic `Irlite' follows, 10 minutes of beautifully intimidating music, almost classical in its structure, tonal shifts and moods play havoc with your ears but you can't help but be drawn in.

`Irlite' is not alone in its epic length, `Bladelores', and `Recks on' give Autechre time to weave incredibly subtle and complex compositions, and all sounding quite different. `Bladelores' is a meditative looped track which shifts gracefully along. "Recs on' uses the only `recognisable' sample on the album, an industrial-snare stomp over some delicious digital washes before changing halfway through to more buzzing, pixelated beats. Whether tracks are long or short, the quality, range and variety of the music in `Exai' is phenomenal.

Towards the end of the album, the sublime trio of `spl9′, Cloudline and `deco Loc' will simply blow your mind, each displaying rich and varied compositions, unbelievable skill in execution and just a delight to listen to. `spl9′ could be Autechre's angriest track ever. The haunting `Cloudline' is an eerie wobbling digital shreak which is filtered beyond recognition, nervously manipulated to resemble a pulsing mood but its hard to grasp. Its continually shifting, underpinned by an irregular series of rhythms, which slowly mesmerises the hell out of you. There are so many great tracks, in fact 17 gold nuggets of music pass by and even after 2.5 hours you want more.

Autechre's music has always been hard to define, and certainly hard to review! The length of `Exai' may seem daunting but it allows Sean Booth and Rob Brown to paint on the biggest canvases possible, and the rewards are infinite. An unparalleled palette of sounds is allowed to manifest, evolve, fuse, clash, explode, disperse, and die. The range of tones is often staggering, utilising a puzzling array of complex rhythms and drum programming that needs a supercomputer to deconstruct, melodies that scare and astound in equal measure. Theirs is a fascinating symbiosis of man and machine, and once again Autechre prove they are light years ahead of anybody else.

`Exai' is a perfect summation of Sean Booth and Rob Brown's towering contribution to electronic music. They've been making innovative and uncompromising music for over 20 years now, and `Exai' could well be their best album of a long list of great albums.
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on 6 March 2013
This latest release from the dynamic duo points more towards their Quaristice sound but feels a lot more developed, a whopping 2hrs 32secs of mind bending digital manipulation and intense arrangements will keep any fan or electronic experimental affectionado more than engaged for a while. Although it holds no big surprises Exai is a natural evolution of Autechre's sound and proves yet again that the lads are still on top of their game.
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on 4 March 2013
As a member of a hip-hop dance group we find Autechre to be a great source of challenging dance material. Our routine to `61e.CR' is still one of our favourites. And Autechre is still, at the end of the day, all about hip-hop, street and dance. Booth and Brown just `get' rhythm - they are just so good at it.

I'm not going to give Exai 5 stars as that would be dishonest. In my opinion it isn't perfect. So what are the negatives? Well I for one do find the track names a tad silly, and if they mean so little I'd prefer it if they had no titles at all! Also, as you might expect with 2 hours of music, there are a few areas where I felt I was listening to padding (I don't think Booth and Brown would win any prizes for editing :) ). Also, I feel that the sound-scape isn't quite as varied as say Confield, with a bit too much squidgy synthesizer at times. But that's the negative stuff out of the way. What we're left with is still something quite amazing and rewarding - if you are prepared to listen to it in the right way.

I've listened to Exai a few times now and I must say that it is up there with the best. I've even played it back-to-back with Confield, Draft 7.30 and Untilted and it seems to follow-on very nicely from those albums. Some think oversteps is in there as well, but I cannot hear it myself. With bands such as `Boards of Canada' seemingly struggling to find any creative energy at all (8 years and still waiting!), Booth and Brown can be relied upon to deliver work that is still challenging and worthwhile. And there are lots of treasures in Exai - you just have to dig for them sometimes. Really, I'm convinced that Booth and Brown could, if they felt so inclined, produce an accessible dance album that would have everyone on their feet in the clubs and it would sell like hot-cakes. But they don't do it - they just follow their own furrow and if we happen to like it, then fine - and if we don't, then that is okay too. To me that is the epitome of what art is all about.

One last thing, if you've never heard Autechre before and you don't like 'bladelores' then I wouldn't bother with anything else!
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on 5 March 2013
Ferocious and alchemical, Autechre haven't sounded this wholly invigorated and fresh for many years. At two hours plus long it's something of a curate's egg and you'd need to be slightly unhinged to attempt it all in one sitting. Maybe this is Booth & Brown's stab at their own 'Drukqs'?

As ever they use angular electronic palettes and timbres quite unlike anyone else - there's no mistaking who is making these complex, crunching, swarming soundscapes even when they tip a cursory hat to such (relatively) new kids on the block as dubstep's wobbly bass. It's as impossible to single out tracks as it is to distinguish where one ends and the next begins, when more often than not there are more ideas in one track than a whole album from a contemporary.
The album comprises of both the latter-day abstract swarms of skittering nano-bots as well as shadows of the b-boys from outer space encountered on Lego Feet, Incunabula and Gescom.

Overall this is dense, challenging, labyrinthine music quite unlike anyone else. I'll be trying to unravel its occult mysteries for the foreseeable...
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on 30 June 2015
Oh God, is this brilliant? If you've got a very good hi fi then treat yourself to the vinyl. Any mortal nurtured in electronic (or any other) music has to have this in his/hers top drawer! Demanding? Absolutely, Rewarding? Life enhancing. Yep, it's just some more music, but you'll be a bigger, more enlightend being for spending time unraveling this box of black magic. ESSENTIAL!!!!
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on 7 April 2016
This is one of their best albums to date, which I previously didn't think was possible to do.
After a period of experimentation and albums which could seem dodgy or needed years of getting used to, it is clear on this album that Oversteps and Move of Ten were "practice" and this is the final push. Perfection.
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on 6 September 2015
Autechre are a strange duo. No, really. Hear me out. They started off writing some glistening, electro-influenced electronica, back when it didn't make you feel dirty to refer to the Warp catalogue as IDM. Their first two albums "Incunabula" and "Amber" are perfectly formed slices of head-music with a dance-floor sensibility, if not a dance-floor suitability.

Then they slowly and deliberately - ahem - warped themselves into a harder-edged pairing, increasingly less interested in pleasing their listener, and far more interested in alienating themselves with clanging metallic loops, off-kilter rhythms, and less melody than the average building site. Their's were a furrowed brow, intent on not doing what anyone else was doing, releasing seriously damaged sounding noise-scapes that somehow still managed to gain a fan base of equal intensity despite not really being - well, particularly listeneable.

I like the stuff they do, but do I miss the simple choons and melodies of the early days. I make no apology for the fact that every time I purchase a new Autechre album I'm hoping to hear something akin to the sweetness and oddity of the Amber days. They nearly did so with the lovely Oversteps, the album released prior to Exai. So that was okay then.

Exai then. Exai is - well it's noise. Clanging, whirbling, slonging, jiggling, improvisatory sounding noise that somehow all manages to seem relatively coherent, even manages to make sense of a kind, at least in context. What that context is, I'm still trying to understand. I've no doubt I'll be told at some point when I bring this up that, it's just who Autechre are - you're either on board or you're not.

But I've been on board since the beginning and I kind of what something from them that I just don't think they're capable of giving anymore : a s***.

Here's the thing - it's a double cd set of this noise. It makes NO attempts to pander to it's audience. It's oppressively odd. It just works away, whether you're listening to it or not, whether you understand it or not, whether you care or not. It just "is." And that's fine but problematic because at some point when I personally listen to music, I want to feel engaged. And this isn't interested in engaging you. Yes, it's a puzzle, but it's too much of a puzzle and at the end of the day it's exhausting trying to solve it which begs the question - why bother.

Which is why it's the least listened of all Autechre's cds in my collection. I just don't care about it, and it doesn't seem to care about me. I have realised I'm only buying these albums out of fan loyalty. It's the Autechre album that has made me decide not to purchase any more.

I just don't think it's worth it, and if I'm being honest, all hyperbole and hype aside about this album, the music just isn't interesting enough to listen to more than once.

A disappointment, but probably only a personal one.
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on 11 March 2014
utter perfection.
a nightmare of seething and twitching noises await your senses- you need to absorb the whole thing as late at night as you possibly can.
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on 26 March 2014
this album is a masterpiece, give it a listen and let it grow on you, such a clever pair of lads!
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