All watched over by machines of loving grace

Autechre are practitioners of what's called "intelligent dance music," a genre whose name reminds me a little bit of what Toynbee said about the Holy Roman Empire.  It's hard to say just how intelligent it is, you can't dance to it, and it doesn't seem very much like what you'd recognize as music.  As an ex once said about me, Autechre plays hard to want.

This track may seem to be a big load of trashy noise.  But in the opening section, there's an accented hit that stands out from the staticky, buzzing, glitchy bed of percussion.  While every grinding wave of that percussion bed sounds somewhat random (though not really random - it's clearly happening on a beat), that accented percussion hit turns out to have a tonality.  Your ear follows the tonality as it changes with repetition.  Music!

The animation that Alex Rutterford created to accompany this is perfect.  Its visual metaphor matches the spirit of the music exactly.  The evolutions of the visual metaphor make the underlying structure of the music visible, too.  It's really hard to characterize the sections of this piece verbally, but Rutterford figured out how to do it visually.

I think the thing I'd urge you to keep in mind when watching and listening to this is something that Adam Neely frequently touches on in his music instruction.  Music is fun.  Everything in this particular piece may seem to be fighting you on this front, because it's so dissonant, noisy, abrasive, and harsh that it seems like it might cause long-term genetic damage.  I certainly don't like this.  But I have fun listening to it.

Part of it is that it's quaint to see, from the vantage point of the dystopian future we're living in right now, what people thought was dystopian way back in 2002.  Close but no cigar, nerds!


  1. Is Intelligent Dance Music any less meaningful a title than "Progressive Rock?" As a self-aggrandizing description of a school, it's not bad--it puts everyone else on the defensive. It's kind of like a guy I knew on the faculty in Philosophy at Oxford who declared that his system of thought would be known as "Content Philosophy."

  2. IDM wasn't _their_ title. Rob Brown (one half of Autechre) describes their genre like this: "My wife says it's just all pots and pans."


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