Mar 15, 2010

Review: Autechre at Pure, Manchester, March 11th 2010

Autechre's show at Pure in Manchester last week was a mixture of the brilliant and the bloody stupid.


The hour-long set was grounded in hypnotic loops and much more beaty than new album Oversteps. We had rasping snares for the first five minutes, persistent knocking, and taps all over the place. The music sounded like it was literally tumbling out of the speakers.

The first half of the set was fractured, gloomy and, in true Autechre style, awkward. As the mid-point loomed, we began to get more melancholic chords.

And then, after some 4:4 rave masculinity (you don't get much thump-thump-thump normally), the beats seemed to kick in more. Or maybe I was just into the groove by then. They certainly saved their heaviest sounds for the second half.


It was a desolate performance, the darkness deepened by the band's usual insistence that the flashy lights be turned off (see photo!), and it ended in a mass of wailing noise and, at the very climax, a mess of percussion.

It's the Autechre I've known and loved a long time, and for about 20 minutes, I was totally immersed in every intricacy.

I can't produce a track list. There was some Oversteps in there, but I get the impression they were going with the flow. Anyone waiting for a record-perfect rendition of Arch Carrier would be disappointed, but then again anyone wanting that has probably never seen Autechre before.


The support was superb too. Didjit diddled around with hip hop before extreme noise experimentalist Russell Haswell threw 15 minutes of painful circuit bending at the crowd.

As a gig performance, Haswell's screeching, white noise and frequency murder only served to annoy. I did hear a friend claim this was music from the future, only to get a reply from a random punter, "yeah, only after everyone was dead and buried, then someone shat on a keyboard".

But as a performance of sound sculpture, it delighted the geeky bit of me that has spent many hours building noises from sine waves.

Meanwhile, Gescom collaborator Rob Hall's DJ set was the most straightforward thing of the evening. Proper, solid techno with a 1990s focus and ending with a stupendous remix of LFO's Freak.


So that's the brilliance taken care of. This brings me to the other element of the night: the bloody stupid bit. This can be summed up with one four-letter word: Pure.

Who chose Pure as a venue? Come on. Own up. The airport style scanners were bad enough: they insisted on beeping for everybody, so we all got some lecherous thug giving us the pat-down.

Then you had to exchange your ticket stub for a paper ticket which was then exchanged for an ink stamp, all within the space of about four yards. It was, quite simply, silly.

The moaning of the venue staff was nearly enough to dampen the atmosphere (you can guess Pure's level of awfulness by the number of Basshunter posters advertising a 'meet-and-greet' for £15), but then you had to cope with finding an exact sweet spot to listen to the finer bleeps of Autechre's music.

Anyone outside that zone, which must have been most of the venue, would only have heard a muffled fog of meh.


There are rough recordings of the gig here and somewhere in here. They're great if you like listening to your favourite band and someone else's conversation at the same time.

Meanwhile, do read this guide to enjoying a concert performed by Autechre by a reluctant fan, which contains the joyful line: "Listening to their music takes a lot of mental energy and can be slightly agitating."


Method Promotion said...

Wow, will stay clear of using that venue, sounds awful! But hey at least you had Autechre :) missed them at Bloc, gutted! :(

Fat Roland said...

There was something quite nice about bringing all this noise to a venue that normally hosts 'live PA' events. Welcome to the blog, MP.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with that.

The process of getting into Pure was ridiculous. Time consuming, pointless, and seemingly designed to make people uneasy.

In all my years I've never had such a thorough search - scanner, pat down, pockets emptied - and this was on a Thursday night.

W***ers didn't even put enough bar staff on. I was fairly glad to see Haswell necessitated them putting in earplugs - a phyrric victory.

Some of the Autechre set was superb mind. Very beat driven. My girlfriend was slightly alarmed that I enjoyed it, but what can you do. Nice.

Fat Roland said...

The Haswell moment was great. You could see the fear in the staff's eyes, and their thought process: was this was going to get any worse, are these people music fans or animals, are we safe or should we just run for it. Brilliant.