`We got all these letters telling us how to make our music more commercial," says Sean Booth, recalling record company responses to Autechre's early demos. "They said, yeah, it's good, but the structures aren't square enough. You can't tell when the beats are going to drop." One wonders, nearly a decade on, what those same record company people would make of Confield, Autechre's sixth album. Its originality is striking; the music is often harsh, occasionally beautiful, and encompasses both repetitive beats and rhythmic systems of extraordinary complexity. It's about as far away from any recognised form of dance music as you can possibly get.
Rewinding back to the early 1990s Autechre - Booth and Rob Brown - were in the vanguard of the "intelligent techno" scene. Booth is amused to recount that the landmark Artificial Intelligence compilations - put out by the Sheffield label, Warp - were in fact a pragmatic use of leftover tracks unsuitable for release as singles; music by dance acts that just weren't dancey enough. But the ploy worked and a new genre was created. Autechre's 1993 debut album Incunabula followed, a potent mix of melody, shadowy atmospherics and grooves influenced by hip hop and Eighties electro. It topped the indie charts.
Since then, Autechre have travelled off on their own personal tangent into uncharted territory, bypassing all the commercially popular forms of electronic music en route. Artistically sound, this course has also resulted in lessening sales. Not that this bothers them. "It happens with every release," shrugs Brown. "We have to accept there's a limited appeal to it or we'd got crazy," adds Booth.
They met as teenagers in Roch-dale in the late 1980s. They so obviously enjoy talking that it's disconcerting to hear them admit that they would rather not have done any press interviews for their new album, preferring instead, in Brown's words, to "let it spread like a virus". The music press have been largely shunned and many interested parties refused interviews. Autechre's attitude may seem puzzling but in essence it's straightforward - they aren't interested in promoting themselves.
In recent years Autechre have been active in designing their own music software. They are so highly regarded in this area that a certain big company sends them software to test. …