Essential Ambient #9: Amber

Around 2 months ago I reviewed Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works. Now, in my penultimate Essential Ambient review we have come full circle and ended up with another pioneering electronic artist; Autechre. There are few artists with such a polarised yet dedicated fanbase, and it’s easy to see why. Early works like Incunabula and Amber are more ambient, yet their recent albums are highly electronic and experimental.

Reviewing Amber as a single entity is rather difficult actually, since each track brings something completely new to the table. The album is largely, if not completely, electronic. Most notably we have synths (pretty much a staple of any ambient release) which make an amazing appearance in “Silverside” where they sparkle and thrum. We also have some distorted basslines that pulse arrhythmically (even wobbling a little in “Glitch”, like some ultra-downbeat brostep) throughout, glitches and crackles and a whole host of other unidentifiable sounds. Afterall, Autechre supposedly make their own computer programs to make their music.

I get the distinct feeling of introversion with this album. There are times when we have a little playfulness - “Slip” is probably the best example and yet the weakest part of the album for me, and some hints of something a little more upbeat in “Nine” also - but it largely remains something mysterious and enigmatic; the seemingly meaningless track names add to this. It’s not melancholic, just on the slightly sombre side of neutral. The final three tracks of the album do feel much darker though, especially with “Nil” moving into the finalé “Teartear”, with it’s fat bassline and creepy, distorted human voice elements. Fantastic.

There are times, I’ll admit, when you’d be hard pushed to hear the ambient side of this album. “Piezo” is the most beat-driven and active piece of the album and is rather peculiar initially, since it breaks a relative calm. That is until you continue listening and the more beautiful, drone-ier side of things begins to materialise under all the activity, some space-ambient remnant seeping through. That, I think, is the story of this album. There are strong, very strong actually, ambient influences throughout that require, if not demand, a certain level of careful listening. Autechre have taken the genre and applied their own lilt to proceedings, a jaunty angle that is strongly electronic, and yet remains true (enough at least) to ambient principles.

I can’t give this album justice here, there are too many intricacies within each track and I’m not going to run through them all, but take my word for it, this is challenging but very, very good.

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2 years ago
Posted on November 2nd at 8:05 PM
Tagged as: Autechre. Amber. essential. review. ambient. IDM. ambient techno. electronic. onlyambient.
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