(July 2010) The unexpectedly early announcement of Move of Ten (which at ten tracks and a running time just shy of fifty minutes is as much of an “EP” as EP7 was) immediately incites comparisons to the release of the quadrange.ae.ep that followed Quaristice. This time, though, rather than the exhausting onslaught of additional material that quadrange.ae.ep, Quaristice Versions and the various Japanese exclusives offered, we get a tightly controlled ten tracks that are far more than mere remixes or reworkings of tracks from Oversteps.
And yet despite a full physical release the presentation of Move of Ten gives the impression that it’s slightly embarrassed about its existence and is trying to hide in Oversteps‘s shadow. The odd insistence on relegating it to “EP” status together with the very nicely designed and presented but more basic digipak and twin twelve-inch packages seems to be an attempt to diminish its importance in the Ae canon, signaling that Oversteps should still very much be perceived as the daddy. But why? This tactic didn’t really work with the very highly regarded quaristice.ae.ep and it sure as hell isn’t working now either. In fact, Ae have pushed the envelope even further with Move of Ten, taking sonic elements, themes, patches and textures from many tracks on Oversteps and applying them in new forms and functions to create a very different experience. Locked together by their common sound-palettes, Move of Ten fills in all those vast open spaces that Oversteps left in its expansive, glittering wake.
It also has something of an oblique sense of humour that’s absent from the more austere symphonies of Oversteps, the extraordinary contrast of the tinkling of pin-galaxies blinking in and out of existence with the breaking of wind, gurgling indigestion and sheer, slicing stabs of noise in “Etchogon-S” are a great example.
“y7” was made available early as a taster of what to expect from Move of Ten and it remains one of the most iconic moments here – perhaps unsurprising given that it shares a similar sonic palette to “Treale,” a high watermark of Oversteps. Once again Ae demonstrate their cunning use of layering and phasing to create wonderfully complex and rich arrangements from a minimal library of source material. The fizzy, buzzing static and feedback from “Treale” becomes one of the primary ingredients of this 4/4 beat driven slice of acid-squelch techno, almost obscuring the myriad synth notes and extended tones that are underpinned by a glorious wash of exhaled reverb.
“M62” leaves a similarly simplistic first impression that doesn’t exactly inspire further exploration, but rewards re-visitations exceptionally well. Veering even closer to a classic techno sound it has a sort of matt-laminated, sand-blasted, arid textural quality that rounds off virtually every sound to be heard, including the frictionless and deadened clonking beat and the soft, blank analogue keys. Meanwhile, “pce freeze 2.8i” has an air of manic desperation about it, the twisted and actually quite funny melodic squiggle that repeats in myriad textures throughout is broken up by the spine-tingling cries of a twisted zither being cruelly strummed by a demented super-villain.
“nth Dafuseder.b” is an atmospheric high-point with pads that billow and roil like immense lakes of dry ice through echoing subterranean caves. Networks of crunchy, glitched rhythm sections recognizable as those sprinkled through “d-sho qub” are punctuated by a warbling retro synth-flute reminiscent of… well okay I won’t say it… that staggers about disoriented, oddly out-of-place having clearly taken a wrong turn and become hopelessly lost in this dense space.
Like Oversteps it’s not all great, but the mis-steps are few and far-between. “rew(1)” just sort of lumbers along like a Quaristice reject, trying its best to fit in with the new-found Ae aesthetic, but is ultimately a bit of an overlong bore best shooed into the corner of the room, and “no border,” which fuses the hydraulic hiss and soft noise bursts of “os veix3” together with the rubbery keys and jumbled melodic passages of “qplay,” is more successful than the latter was on Oversteps but still feels just a little too noodly and random.
The lighter moments on Move of Ten tend to be those that are more obviously reworked tracks from Oversteps, like the spring and sparkle of “iris was a pupil” (one of the silliest Ae track titles ever?) that reformats “pt2ph8” and adds a splash of drama or “ylm0,” a fresh souffle of fluffy, melodic haphazardness from “krYlon” and the spongy bass cushioning in “redfall.” And at the other end of the spectrum there is “Cep puiqMX,” a suitably bonkers title that recalls the days of Garbage, another signature fanfare blasting out of dark, swirling skies revealing a turbulent, stormy mass of tangled rhythmic chatter and blurted orchestral hits, as if whatever this now unrecognizable thing was had its innards scrambled and was turned inside out.
In fan circles, it appears that Move of Ten has proven to be far less polarizing than Oversteps, and whilst it’s clearly not as refined, as cohesive or as “composed” as its predecessor, the title implies that it’s not actually supposed to be. The edge has also been taken off by virtue of the fact that we’ve heard some of these sounds already, but this never stopped quadrange.ae.ep from being a runaway success, and in essence Move of Ten expands Oversteps into a double album.
This timely release is proof positive that Autechre are at the absolute top of their game and I don’t think I’m the only one hoping that another Oversteps era Ae might follow later this year. We’ve had the wide-open spaces of Oversteps, the crowded, densely populated and brooding intensity of Move of Ten, so how about a panoramic array of transportative ambiances and atmospheres to completely lose ourselves in? We can but hope.
Move of Ten is out now on Warp. [Listen | Purchase]