Boomkat Product Review:
The album where it all started getting properly weirdo. Trust we were scratching our heads for a long while on the day this landed at the shop all the way back in 2001. The opening Gamelan piece was easy enough on the ears, but after that it took a bit of spatial re-adjustment to spot and ride the groove.
Before Confield, Ae had followed up the divisive but deeply listenable 'LP5' with the more algorithmically-informed 'EP7', and while the Max/MSP software Sean Booth and Rob Brown were beginning to center their workflow around had helped shape that record, there were still traces of the OG DNA in the foundations. On 'Confield', gone were the melancholy pads and breakdance pulses, replaced by serpentine computer-aided melodies, radical sound design flexes and rhythms that sounded as if they would reset as soon as they got trapped in a groove.
Always eager to confuse, Confield opens with 'VI Scose Poise', a track that's loaded with the frustrating momentum of a kettle that never boils. Made up of frozen tones that suggest rhythms without evolving into a discernible beat, it plays with expectations, introducing a weightless synth melody that sounds almost like vintage Autechre, but not quite. 'Cfern' doubles down, splicing zig-zagging non-melodies with unstable boom bap lurches; if critics thought "Tri Repetae" was the sound of a washing machine winding down from a spin cycle, now there were bricks in the drum. Fan favorite 'Pen Expers' edges closest to the stuttering delirium of 'LP5', but by 'Parhelic Triangle' we've been dragged to the duo's furthest perimeters, subjected to cybernetic gamelan tones and a beat that sounds like rubber bands pinging off petrified furniture.
Listening two decades later, ideas that felt knotty and loaded in an age when algorithmic art was still in its infancy sound shockingly prophetic. In 2023, algorithmic integration isn't an experimental concept, it's made its way to dubstep, pop, techno and beyond; it commands and manipulates our consumption of cultural information as a society in ways we've stopped perceiving. With 'Confield' Autechre were showing us not just a vision of their creative future, but of our collective destiny. It was a line in the sand that splits their catalog neatly, and while they'd continue to make nods to the BC era (er, "before Confield"), their sound forever shifted. The fact that so many purveyors of so-called IDM are still stuck trying to figure out how to re-write 'Flutter' should be all the evidence you need as why that stylistic progression was completely necessary, whether we were ready or not.