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autechre - Exai
Album number 11 from the venerable Æ is arguably their finest for over a decade. 'Exai' marks the pairing of Sean Booth and Rob Brown at a refreshed peak of their powers with scant compromise to the challenging and forward thinking nature of their music. And for a duo now well into their third decade of collaboration, that's a rare thing indeed. Their beats are astutely modern, refracting traces of Techno, dubstep, house, hip hop, D&B and electro with signature flair, while their palette banks of computerized sounds are intangibly abstract, machinelike, yet provoking unmistakably human emotional responses, whether that's curiosity, fear, elation or just sheer trippiness - most likely some integer that doesn't have a name yet (unnoun?). So, what's it sound like? Listen to the clips! But if we must pick highlights, there are some obviously great choices. The way 'T ess xi' inverts deep electro-house chords from somewhere almost-positive to a frowning, chamber-like IDM gets us every time, while the glorious 'Jatevee C' has to be one of their most heart-rending tracks since, ohh, 'Dropp'? For the hip hop die hard there's the masterstroke of percussive comtrails and subbass unfolding over ten minutes of 'Cloudline', and to much more desolate, transporting effect on 'Bladelores' - surely another classic in their canon - and this body is partial to the nexx level step-flex of 'Runrepik', bringing back panic attack flashbacks from their 'Untilted' tour. Ultimately, this record doesn't patronise its listeners or the dancefloor (that pitch black warehouse idyll in the corner of our hivemind); it prods and tweaks, fascinates, challenges and gratifies in abundance. As you've probably gathered, we're big fans of 'Exai' and reckon a lot of you will be, too. Even if you weren't that arsed about 'Oversteps' or 'Quaristice'.